Highlights of President Barack Obama’s news conference Friday:
Obama said he would work with Congress to change the oversight of some of the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance programs. He also said he would name a new panel of outside experts to review technologies.
Specifically, the president says he wants to work with Congress to provide an opposing voice in arguments before the secret court that approves massive government surveillance efforts. The court currently hears only from Justice Department officials who want the surveillance approved.
The secret court and other surveillance programs have been under scrutiny since NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealed classified programs in June. The government has defended these programs as necessary to prevent terror attacks.
Asked about his signature health care law, Obama said some Republicans have an “ideological fixation” with stopping the implementation of the law and no plan to help millions of uninsured Americans.
Obama defended his recent one-year delay in the law’s employer coverage requirement as a “tweak” that will ultimately help implement the legislation with fewer disruptions for businesses.
The president chastised some Republicans who advocate a government shutdown this fall as a last-ditch effort to block the rollout of coverage for the uninsured. He calls it a “bad idea” that will weaken the economy as a recovery is getting traction.
Obama said he was encouraging Russian President Vladimir Putin to “think forward instead of backwards” as it relates to strained relations with the United States.
Obama said he realizes relations between the two superpowers have been difficult lately but said progress was being made until Putin regained the Russian presidency. Obama says there have been “a number of emerging differences,” including over Syria and human rights.
The White House this week cancelled a planned summit between Obama and Putin in Moscow next month. The decision was made in part because Russia has refused to return Snowden to the U.S. to face charges of leaking national security secrets.
Obama said Snowden was not a patriot for revealing widespread government surveillance programs.
The president said he called for a review of the secret surveillance programs before details of documents Snowden leaked to reporters were publicized in June. He said Snowden’s disclosures prompted a faster and more passionate response than if Obama had just appointed a board to review the policies.
Following the temporary shuttering of 19 U.S. diplomatic outposts, Obama defended his administration efforts to fight al-Qaida but said its regional groups are powerful enough to attack U.S. interests.
Obama said the core of al-Qaida is less able to carry out a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11. But he says offshoots like the one in Yemen have the capacity to go after U.S. embassies and businesses around the world.
The threat of an attack prompted the U.S. government to close 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and North Africa last week. On Friday, the State Department said 18 of the missions would reopen Sunday or Monday, with the embassy in Yemen remaining closed.
U.S. intelligence officials had intercepted a message between a top al-Qaida official and his deputy in Yemen about plans for a major terror attack targeting American or other Western sites abroad.
Asked about upcoming spending fights, Obama said he doesn’t think congressional Republicans will force a government shutdown this fall when the two sides consider the federal budget.
Obama said the public would not understand a budget confrontation that leads to a cutoff of government services that could weaken the economy’s recovery. He said he assumes Republicans won’t choose that path and that common sense will prevail.
Obama and his Democratic allies favor higher spending for federal agencies next year than Republicans prefer. Many conservatives are also demanding that Congress refuse to finance Obama’s health care overhaul law as part of legislation funding the government for next year.
Financing for federal agencies expires Oct. 1. Congress is expected to pass temporary funding legislation to give the two sides more time to seek a deal.
Obama said he has a range of outstanding candidates to lead the Federal Reserve and called two leading candidates — Lawrence Summers and Janet Yellen — “highly qualified” to become the next Fed chairman.
Obama said he decided to push back against people who were urging him not to pick Summers because he thought his former economic adviser was “getting slapped around the press for no reason.”
Summers served as the head of the National Economic Council during Obama’s first term. Yellen is the vice chair of the Fed.
Obama said he wants the next Fed chairman to keep inflation in check and enforce a sound monetary policy. He plans to nominate a successor to outgoing chairman, Ben Bernanke, this fall.
Asked about the upcoming anniversary of the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya, Obama said the U.S. was still committed to capturing those who carried out the deadly assault.
Obama said his administration would bring those responsible for the Benghazi attacks to justice and noted that it took him longer than 11 months to make good on his promise to find Osama bin Laden.
Obama said his government has a sealed indictment on some suspected of involvement. Officials said earlier this week the Justice Department had filed under seal the first criminal charges as part of its investigation of the September attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Republicans have criticized the administration’s response to the attack and its shifting explanation of what happened.