12/20/2013 05:45 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Obama Appears To Soften His Stance On The NSA, Edward Snowden

NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images

When the NSA scandal first broke six months ago, President Barack Obama was forceful in defending the government's surveillance programs, while criticizing Edward Snowden.

At his year-end press conference on Friday, the president's defense of NSA and condemnation of Snowden appeared weakened. Speaking from the press briefing room, Obama was asked a range of questions over the hour-long span, and at the head of the list of issues was surveillance.

Here's how his Friday comments stacked up to remarks made over the summer:


On June 7, Obama was asked at a press conference a) to react to the reports of secret government surveillance of phone and the Internet and b) if he could assure Americans that there wasn't some massive secret database containing all of their personal information. The president assured onlookers that the programs were classified for a reason, but far from secret to Congress.

"And in the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amuck, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance," Obama said.


By Dec. 20, Obama was asked if his credibility had taken a hit with that "right balance" comment. Earlier this week alone, a judge ruled the program was unconstitutional and a presidential task force urged limits on NSA spying.

The president replied that it was "important to note" that balance is subject to a series of judgment calls that "make sure the American people are protected."

"What is absolutely clear to me is that given the public debate that's taken place and the disclosures that have taken place over the last several months, this is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust. Now, part of the challenge is that because of the manner in which these disclosures took place, in dribs and drabs, often times shaded in a particular way, and because of some of the constraints that we've had in terms of declassifying information and getting it out there, that trust in how many safeguards exist and how these programs are run has been diminished. So what's going to be important is how to build that back up."


On Aug. 9, Obama made his thoughts clear on Snowden, saying that he did not think he was a patriot.

"The fact is, Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies," Obama said.


By Dec. 20, CBS News' Major Garrett asked Obama what he would say to Americans who believe Snowden "set in motion something that is proper and just."

Obama replied:

I've got to be careful here, Major, because Mr. Snowden is under indictment. He has been charged with -- with crimes, and that's the province of the attorney general and ultimately, a judge and a jury. So I -- I can't weigh in specifically on this case at this point. I'll try to see if I can get at the spirit of the question, even if I can't talk about the specifics.

I have said before and I believe that this is an important conversation that we needed to have. I have also said before that the way in which these disclosures happened have been -- have been damaging to the United States and damaging to our intelligence capabilities.

And I think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that damage.



Edward Snowden