Obama downplays Snowden chase

2013-06-27 19:26
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Dakar — The United States won't be scrambling military jets or engaging in high-level diplomatic bartering to get National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden extradited to the US, President Barack Obama said on Thursday.

Dismissing him as "a 29-year-old hacker", Obama sought to downplay the international chase for Snowden, lowering the temperature of an issue that has already raised tensions between the US and uneasy partners Russia and China.

Obama said the damage to US national security has already been done and his top focus now is making sure it can't happen again.

"I'm not going to have one case with a suspect who we're trying to extradite suddenly be elevated to the point where I've got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues, simply to get a guy extradited so he can face the justice system," Obama said at a joint news conference with Senegal's President Macky Sall.

Snowden turned 30 last week. He was working as a government contractor with security clearance when he seized the NSA documents.

Snowden's intercontinental efforts to shirk US authorities — taking him from a hotel hideout in Hong Kong to an airport transit zone in Moscow, where he's believed to be holed up — has already undercut Obama's efforts to strengthen ties with China and threatened to worsen tensions with Russia just as Obama is seeking Moscow's co-operation on Syria. At the same time, Snowden's attempts to seek asylum from Ecuador and other nations have underscored Obama's limited sway in a number of foreign capitals.

No formal extradition treaty with Russia

Obama said he hadn't personally called either Russian President Vladimir Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping to request their co-operation.

"I shouldn't have to," he declared.

Obama said such matters are routinely dealt with at a law-enforcement level, calling Snowden's extradition "not exceptional from a legal perspective". He said the US has a wide-ranging economic relationship with China that shouldn't be dwarfed by the hunt for one fugitive, and that the US has had "useful conversations" with Moscow over efforts to return Snowden to the US. Putin has called Snowden a "free man" and refused to turn him over to Washington.

"My continued expectation is that Russia or other countries that have talked about potentially providing Mr Snowden asylum recognise that they are a part of an international community and they should be abiding by international law," Obama said, noting that the US doesn't have a formal extradition treaty with Russia.

Snowden has acknowledged seizing highly classified documents about US surveillance programmes that collect vast amounts of US phone and internet records. He shared the information with The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers. He also told the South China Morning Post that the NSA hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal text message data. The Senate Intelligence Committee chairperson, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has said Snowden still has perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents.

Damage done

"I get why it's a fascinating story," Obama said. "I'm sure there will be a made-for-TV movie somewhere down the line."

Obama says the fact Snowden walked off with so many secret documents shows significant vulnerabilities at the NSA that must be solved. But Obama said he's also focused on fostering a "healthy effective debate" about the balance between security and privacy in America.

"In terms of US interests, the damage was done with respect to the initial leaks," Obama said.

Obama's comment came on the first full day of a weeklong, 3-country trip to Africa, his first major tour of sub-Saharan Africa since he took office more than four years ago.

Read more on:    edward snowden  |  barack obama  |  ecuador  |  hong kong  |  us  |  russia  |  china  |  privacy

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.