US President Barack Obama has acknowledged that leaks by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden have identified some areas of legitimate concerns with regard to privacy of citizens while highly sensationalising other issues.
“The way this (classified documents leaked by Snowden) has been reported–the Snowden disclosures have identified some areas of legitimate concern. Some of it has also been highly sensationalised. And has been painted in a way that is not accurate,” Obama told a private channel in an interview.
Praising the work being done by the National Security Agency (NSA), the federal agency that runs the secretive phone and Internet surveillance programme, Obama said he is proposing self-restrain on NSA. “I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA. And to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence,” he said in response to a question.
Snowden's revelations have rocked the intelligence community
“But I want everybody to be clear. The people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They're not interested in reading your text messages. And that is not something that is done. We have got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening,” he argued.
Obama said young people are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to remain Internet freedom. “And by the way, so am I. That's part of not just our– First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about, because they spend so much time texting,” he said.
“So all of us spend more and more of our lives in cyberspace. Now the challenge is, first of all, we do have people who are trying to hurt us. And they communicate through these same systems. And if we are going do a good job preventing a terrorist attack in this country, a weapon of mass destruction getting on– the New York subway system, et cetera, we do want to keep eyes on some bad actors,” Obama said.
“The second thing is that the same cyberspace that gives us all this incredible information and allows us to reach out around the world also makes our banks accounts vulnerable. Cybercrime is a huge problem and a growing problem. And so we've got to be in there in some way to help protect the American people, even as we're also making sure that the government doesn't abuse it,” Obama said.