Controversy has grown since Snowden, a former US government contractor who fled to Russia, revealed some of the more sweeping aspects of US surveillance on citizens’ Internet searches and telephone records.
Obama, who canceled a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in part over Russia’s decision to grant asylum to the 30 year old, insisted that he has always tried to prevent abuse of surveillance programs.
“I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” Obama said.
But Obama said of the Patriot Act: “Given the scale of this program, I understand the concerns of those who would worry that it could be subject to abuse.”
On July 25 the House of Representatives rejected a bid to cut funding for some National Security Agency programs by a surprisingly narrow 205-217 vote, with an unlikely coalition of conservative Republicans and liberal members of Obama’s Democratic Party voicing concern about citizens’ privacy.
Representative Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican, said he hoped Obama was “serious” about reforms and vowed that dozens of lawmakers would press ahead.
But he wrote on Twitter that Obama’s “claim that he was planning to reform these surveillance programs prior to the leaks is laughable.”