President Barack Obama said in a late-night TV appearance that the United States doesn’t have “a domestic spying program” but it does track phone numbers and email addresses of terrorism suspects.
“We don’t have a domestic spying program,” Obama said. “What we do have are some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack,” he said. “That information is useful.” Obama also called the work done by the National Security Agency a “critical component to counterterrorism.”
Obama’s appearance on Jay Leno’s “The Tonight Show” addressed other topics, including troubles with Russia over Edward Snowden and the recent alerts about terror attacks in the Middle East and North Africa.
The President spoke about several issues related to Russia, including Snowden, Obama’s attendance at an upcoming summit in Russia, and efforts within Russia to target gays and lesbians.
Obama specifically criticized new efforts in Russia to prohibit “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” He said he has “no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”
He also wouldn’t directly comment on Snowden, the former NSA contractor who faces charges back in the U.S. if he leaves Russia.
“We don’t know exactly what he did, except what he said on the Internet and it’s important for me not to judge,” Obama said.
Obama said he has asked for a plan to consider ways of reducing the number of contract employees employed by federal agencies.
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