President Obama says he's heard the concerns about the nation's surveillance programs and will work with Congress to get reforms in place. "We can and must be more transparent," the president said at an afternoon news conference. Among other things, he promised "additional safeguards" in regard to the section of the Patriot Act that governs the collection of phone records and to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, reports CNN. (On the latter, he said an independent attorney would be on hand to argue against the government's surveillance requests in court, reports AP.) The president also announced that an outside panel of experts will be formed to help the government achieve the right balance between security and people's privacy.
All of which stems from the leaks by Edward Snowden about the practices of the National Security Agency, but Obama made clear that he thinks Snowden was wrong, reports Reuters. "I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," he said. And if Snowden thinks he's in the right, he should come back to the US to make his case, he added. Other items from Obama's pre-vacation news conference:
- Putin: "I don't have a negative personal relationship" with him. He said the press likes to obsess about body language, adding that Putin has "got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom."
- Olympics: Obama said the US had no intention of boycotting the winter Olympics in Russia over its anti-gay rules.
- Republicans: "The unifying principle in the Republican party right now is making sure 30 million people don't have health care."
- Benghazi: Asked why the killers haven't been caught 11 months later, he replied, “I also said I’d get bin Laden, but I didn’t get him in 11 months."