Nightly News   |  August 09, 2013

Obama refuses to credit Snowden for new NSA transparency

Emphasizing that NSA leaker Edward Snowden isn’t a patriot, President Obama said he had called for a review of surveillance operations well before Snowden leaked any information. The new reforms will call for additional transparency and create a task force of private citizens to review the NSA’s surveillance programs. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> appears tonight the american fugitive president obama once referred to as a 29-year-old hacker has forced the president's hand into announcing a series of reviews and possible changes to the government's secret surveillance program. in an afternoon news conference, the president made it clear he regards edward snowden 's leaks as criminal acts. but he acknowledged that the leaks have undermined public trust and required a much more rapid response. nbc's chuck todd asked the question that was on everyone's mind. he joins us now from the white house . chuck?

>> good evening, lester . well is it a victory for edward snowden . it will depend on the high of the beholder. but clearly the president admitted his hand was forced when he announced a series of reforms for the controversial nsa surveillance programs. trying to mitigate the damage done to him politically by nsa leaker, edward snowden , the president announced new steps to try to restore public confidence in the controversial nsa surveillance program. the president refused, though, to give any credit today to snowden .

>> is your mindset changed about him. is he now more whistleblower than he is a hacker? is he a patriot?

>> i don't think mr. snowden was a patriot, as i said in my opening remarks, i called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations. before mr. snowden made these leaks. i actually think we would have gotten to the same place. and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security .

>> among the reforms -- work with congress to change how the nsa collects massive amounts of phone records, mandate more transparency by the secret court that regularly approves the surveillance. and create a task force of private citizens to review the programs.

>> all of these steps are designed to insure that the american people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values.

>> as for his cancellation of a planned summit with russian president putin, triggered in part by snowden , the president tried to downplay their lack of personal chemistry.

>> i don't have a bad personal relationship with putin. when we have conversations, they're candid, they're blunt. oftentimes they're constructive. i know the press likes to focus on body language and he's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. but the truth is, is that when we're in conversations together, oftentimes it's very productive.

>> now the president's most passionate response was in an answer on a question about health care . he said this about republicans threatening government shutdown . the idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea. of course for the record, lester lester , the number two republican in the house said they're not going to pursue that strategy. but the president was pretty upset about it.

>> chuck todd at the white