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Stockholm - The United States does not spy on ordinary people's mail and phone calls, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday, insisting that US intelligence gathering was targeted at specific areas of concern.
Obama has faced questions at home and abroad after Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, leaked documents showing the NSA monitors a vast array of email and telephone data of both Americans and foreigners.
“I can give assurances to the publics in Europe and around the world that we are not going around snooping at people's emails or listening to their phone calls,” Obama said during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
“What we try to do is to target, very specifically, areas of concern,” he said, adding that such areas included counter-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and cyber-security.
Obama has said safeguard measures to ensure surveillance programmes remain within certain parameters should be improved.
“Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it,” he said.
Snowden was granted asylum in Russia, which further cooled an already difficult relationship with the United States. The Obama administration wants to bring Snowden back to face espionage charges.
Obama arrived in Sweden on Wednesday seeking to bolster ties with Washington's Nordic partners before he travels to Russia for a G20 summit expected to be clouded by the Syria crisis. - Reuters