Obama defends NSA surveillance but suggests reforms could be on their way

US president Barack Obama has defended the National Security Agency (NSA) following the latest spying revelations, but says he intends to propose some reforms that can "give people more confidence".

Responding to a report in the Washington Post that the NSA is gathering five billion mobile phone records each day - potentially the largest surveillance programme of its kind in terms of both size and scale – Obama claimed the agency did well to not engage in domestic surveillance.

This is despite evidence from secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, suggesting that data from millions of US citizens is collected "incidentally" by the agency.

Speaking on US television show Hardball with Chris Matthews, Obama argued that such surveillance was necessary as enemies to the US communicate using mobile phones.

Obama did however say that he would be proposing certain reforms that would impose "some self-restraint" on the part of the agency.

"Part of what we're trying to do over the next month or so is, having done an independent review and brought a whole bunch of folks, civil libertarians and lawyers and others to examine what's being done," Obama said. "I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA and to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence."

The US president refused to comment on particular NSA programmes, but did admit that certain revelations had raised some legitimate concerns about the agency's practice. He also reiterated that the media had sensationalised and exaggerated other aspects of the agency's activities.

"Some of it has also been highly sensationalized and has been painted in a way that's not accurate," he said. "They are not interested in reading your emails, they're not interested in reading your text messages."

Topics

nsa