Responding to criticism that has erupted in recent weeks since former NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked details of classified intelligence programs, President Barack Obama on Friday announced he would roll out a package of changes to make the American people more comfortable with and put new limits on NSA surveillance.
Obama, however, insisted this debate and these changes would have come about even without Snowden's disclosures, and would have happened in a more productive way.
"My preference, and I think the American people's preference, would have been for a lawful, ordinary examination of these laws," he said. "I actually think we would have gotten to the same place and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security."
In an announcement at a White House news conference, President Obama announced four proposals that, he says, will ensure the NSA programs are in keeping with American values and laws and also restore the trust of the American people.
1) Work with Congress to revise Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which allows collection of phone records along the lines of the program first revealed by Snowden.
2) Make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Obama didn't provide concrete details, but alluded to the idea of adding a public ombudsman to the court, to argue against the government in certain circumstances.
3) Make the intelligence programs more transparent. In his comments Obama outlined a host of small proposals that would be reflected in a new website about the government's intelligence gathering operations.
4) Convene a team of outside experts to review U.S. surveillance programs in light of changing technology and propose changes for the future.
Obama, while saying he looked forward to getting the changes done, reiterated his belief that the programs are well-monitored and appropriately used as well.
"America is not interested in spying on ordinary people," he said. "We show a restraint that many government around the world don't even think to show."
Obama had sharp words for Snowden, as well. Rejecting any notion that he was a patriot and calling for him to return home and face trial.
""If in fact he believes what he did was right, he, like every American citizen, can come here and appear before a court, with his lawyer, and make his case to the American people," he said.