News / USA

Obama Weighing Curbs on US Surveillance

President Barack Obama speaks during an end-of-the year news conference at the White House, Dec. 20, 2013.
President Barack Obama speaks during an end-of-the year news conference at the White House, Dec. 20, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama says he is considering whether to curtail the vast surveillance programs being conducted by the clandestine National Security Agency and expects to make decisions in January on the scope of the spying.

Obama defended the spying at a year-end news conference Friday at the White House, saying the United States needs the intelligence to thwart potential terrorist attacks against it. He said the U.S. "can't unilaterally disarm."

The president, however, also said Americans are "rightly concerned about the possibility of misuse" of the data that the NSA is collecting.  Obama said the surveillance programs are "only going to work if the American people have trust" in them.

Obama made the comments days after a judge ruled that the government's collection of millions of records of phone calls made by Americans -- the numbers they called, and the length and dates of the calls -- is likely unconstitutional. A review panel suggested curtailing some of the spy programs.

Obama addressed a wide range of subjects before heading to the island state of Hawaii with first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters for the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays.

He said the leak of details of the NSA surveillance by one-time national security contractor Edward Snowden damaged the country's intelligence capabilities and hurt its diplomatic relations with other countries.

The president declined to comment on whether he might consider granting Snowden amnesty. Snowden is now living in asylum in Russia and facing U.S. espionage charges, but one high-level NSA official recently suggested amnesty could be considered if the U.S. could collect all the remaining cache of documents he took.

Some U.S. lawmakers have called for more sanctions against Iran, to curb Tehran's nuclear development program.  Obama said if the international community is serious about negotiations, it has to create an atmosphere that gets Iran to continue to move toward resolving the nuclear issue.

He said the interim deal that world powers struck with Iran in Geneva has already led to some rolling back of Iran's nuclear capabilities -- the first time that has happened in almost a decade of dispute.

Obama said "it is very important to test" whether a permanent deal can be completed -- "not because it's guaranteed, but because the alternative is possibly us having to engage in some sort of conflict to resolve the problem with all sorts of unintended consequences."

Obama defended national health care reforms -- popularly known as Obamacare -- that are now being implemented in the U.S. He said "the basic structure of that law is working," but acknowledged the rollout has been a "messy process."

With the national security disclosures and the health care roll-out, U.S. political analysts say that 2013 has been the worst of Obama's five years in the White House. His approval ratings have fallen sharply, with a new CNN survey showing that Americans - by a 56-to-41 percent margin - disapprove of his handling of the presidency.

Obama acknowledged that his opinion poll numbers are low, but said his ratings have gone up and down throughout the course of his career.  Obama said if he were interested in polling results, he never would have run for the presidency.

He said that 2014 "needs to be a year of action," with the country boosting its labor market and fixing its broken immigration system. He noted the recent advance in the U.S. economy, but said more needs to be done to cut the jobless rate and renew benefits for long-term unemployed workers.

While the U.S. often has been consumed by political gridlock during his presidency, Obama said that a recent agreement with Congress on a budget for the next two years proves Washington does not have to have "endless gridlock."

You May Like

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid