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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.