Obama Touches On NSA, Economy And Iran During Year-End Briefing
President Obama is confident that the National Security Agency is not engaged in "domestic surveillance" or just "snooping around." In a White House news briefing, Obama was pressed about a new report from an independent review board which is recommending limits on NSA activities. The NSA has been under fire over phone monitoring and data mining. The President said he is evaluating all the recommendations and will make a "definitive statement" sometime next month.
Obama noted that counterterrorism efforts must balance national security and privacy rights. He said counterterrorism represents "tough problems" that he is "glad to have the privilege of tackling." The President was asked about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who is thought to be living in Russia. He said Snowden's actions caused "unnecessary damage" to U.S. intelligence capabilities and diplomacy.
Also, President Obama is defending ongoing efforts to get Iran to end its nuclear program. Obama said diplomacy is preferable to armed conflict. He called the Iranian situation a national security problem that has lasted for more than a decade. The President said the U.S. loses nothing by being involved in a six month interim deal with Tehran. Obama insisted that new sanctions against Iran are not necessary at this time. Some U.S. lawmakers are pushing new sanctions, prompting threats of a presidential veto. The President argued that existing sanctions have been very effective.
The President is touting ongoing progress in the economic recovery. Obama said unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate in five years. Last month, the national unemployment rate dropped to seven percent. The latest government figures show the U.S. economy is growing at its fastest rate in nearly two years. The Commerce Department says the Gross Domestic Product climbed at an annual rate of four-point-one percent in the third quarter.