News / USA

Obama Discusses US Surveillance, Iran, Economy at Year-End News Conference

President Barack Obama speaks during his end-of-the-year news conference in the Brady Press Room at the White House in Washington, Dec. 20, 2013.
President Barack Obama speaks during his end-of-the-year news conference in the Brady Press Room at the White House in Washington, Dec. 20, 2013.
In an end-of-year news conference, President Barack Obama discussed U.S. electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the recent budget deal between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, the flawed rollout of his health care reform law, his low approval ratings, and nuclear talks with Iran.  

Obama began by pointing to news he says bodes well for 2014 - that the U.S. economy grew at a 4.1 percent pace in the third quarter of the year, the strongest in nearly two years, with unemployment the lowest in five years.

"More Americans are finding work and experiencing the pride of a paycheck. Our businesses are positioned for new growth and new jobs. And I firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America," said the president.

He said more work is needed to provide better opportunities for middle-class Americans, adding that he hopes Washington will not be "condemned to endless gridlock" in 2014.

Obama provided a summary of accomplishments, and work still to be done, overseas.

"This year we have demonstrated that with clear-eyed principled diplomacy, we can pursue a new path to a world that is more secure, a future where Iran does not build a nuclear weapon, a future where Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles are destroyed," said Obama.

Domestic Issues Dominate Obama's Year End News Conferencei
X
December 21, 2013 1:41 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama's last news conference of the year focused on domestic issues, especially the country's controversial health care law and security surveillance programs. He also praised the nation's economic growth and acknowledged more work needed to be done. One of the few foreign policy questions he addressed involved Iran and its nuclear program. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more on the Friday briefing.

The interim deal between the United States and other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, provides Iran with limited sanctions relief in exchange for halting parts of its nuclear program.

Obama appealed again to U.S. lawmakers not to pass legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran, which he has threatened to veto, while a final nuclear deal is negotiated in coming months.

"It's not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back, strengthen sanctions even further. I'll work with members of Congress to put even more pressure on Iran. But there is no reason to do it right now," he said.

Another major issue was NSA surveillance, and 46 recommendations from a special panel formed after revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Obama declined to directly comment on Snowden, who faces felony charges, or to suggestions that Snowden, who received temporary asylum from Russia, receive amnesty.

He said there was another way, however, to have a debate about U.S. intelligence capabilities besides the method Snowden chose. "As important and as necessary as this debate has been, it is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage to U.S. intelligence capabilities and to U.S. diplomacy."

He said Americans are "rightly concerned about the possibility of misuse" of the data that the National Security Agency is collecting.

He said the spy programs have to balance the country's need to protect itself against the need to protect Americans' civil liberties and privacy. NSA has collected a vast storehouse of data about Americans' phone calls - the numbers they have called, the time and length of the calls.

"We need this intelligence," Mr. Obama said. "We can't unilaterally 'disarm.'"

But he said the surveillance programs are "only going to work if the American people have trust" in them.

Obama will speak to Americans and the world in January, likely before his State of the Union address, about his decisions on surveillance policy.

Asked if 2013 was the worst year of his presidency, Obama said "that is not how I think of it," but acknowledged that health care reform problems contributed to his current low approval ratings.

"My polls have gone up and down a lot through the course of my career. I mean if I was interested in polls, I wouldn't have run for president," he said.

He also looked ahead to the planned withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and he said the U.S. remains vigilant to protect against terrorist attacks.

After the hour-long news conference, he was asked what his new year's resolution would be, and replied, "to be nicer to the White House press corps."

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Change Iran Now from: USA
December 21, 2013 9:36 PM
During all these efforts by Sec. Kerry and President Obama to cut a deal at almost any price, it amazes me that there has never been a mention of including concessions on Iran's human rights abuses. If you are going to negotiate with a nation under the belief that their word is their bond, behavior is a pretty important component of any deal. Simply taking a regime's leaders at their word without any demonstrable proof is naive at best and stupid at worse. If the US were to hold Iran accountable for example in halting public executions, releasing political prisoners and loosening restrictions on a free press and internet and satellite TV access to outside news sources, then you might be persuaded to believe that Iran is indeed wanting to change. But absent any of those moves, there is little to show that Iran's leadership -- at its core -- has really changed at all and thus can't be trusted to hold up its end of any nuclear bargain.

by: Dr. Q.R. Gravyfart from: D.C.
December 21, 2013 11:36 AM
One of the more jaw-dropping moments to emerge out of 60 Minutes’ profile piece on the National Security Agency was when NSA Director Keith Alexander had to ask permission from his superiors on whether or not he could answer a question!

The report, headed up by John Miller, himself a former FBI and National Intelligence official, was basically a soapbox for the NSA to downplay its malfeasance in light of the Edward Snowden revelations.

“Did the NSA actually find a foreign power that had identified this capability and discussed using it offensively,” Miller asks Alexander at the 2:45 mark in the clip above.

Alexander is about to speak but then turns his head towards what Miller describes as a “crowd of people in the dark,” and states, “I need time out on that.”

According to Miller, Alexander then asked this group of people, “Can I answer that?”

Bear in mind that Alexander is the highest ranking individual in the National Security Agency and moreover a four-star general. Alexander is also Chief of the Central Security Service (CHCSS) and Commander of U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM).

If Alexander is supposedly the top guy at the NSA, why does he need to ask shadowy advisors lurking in the background if he can even address a question???

And who exactly are this group of shadowy people who have the power to give orders to the Director of the NSA and why don’t we know their names??!

Miller and his team said that a group of 20 “minders” would follow the reporters everywhere they went and carefully monitor each individual interview they conducted with NSA employees.

One interview clip features a woman in the background who states, “please stop….back off” as another NSA worker begins to answer a question.

Although Miller, himself a former Associate Deputy Director of National Intelligence, insisted that the NSA story would not be a “puff piece,” that’s precisely what it turns out to be since virtually all of the assertions made by NSA employees which justify mass surveillance go unchallenged.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs