Pete Souza



Obama’s Foreign Policy Message through NSA Reforms

On Friday as he laid out directives to reform the NSA, President Barack Obama deftly touched on several foreign policy issues. His message was clearly articulated despite restrained in words. In an attempt to mend friendships with allies, President Obama placed a premium on respecting his counterparts’ privacy.

At the same time he reiterated that the American intelligence team, like that of any other country, will continue to monitor the intentions of foreign governments in order to craft an effective foreign policy. The United States, however, will not retain this information exclusively. Rather, if required, it may be subject to be exchanged with the appropriate authority.

The president summed up the way in which transnational intelligence communities cooperate with each other.

It was reassuring to have the president confirm this since conventional trust both at home and abroad was severely damaged by Edward Snowden’s “sensational” revelation of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance program.

President Obama further stated that, “We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective.” He clarified that the United States will remain unapologetic in cases of a similar incident in the future. The NSA will continue to listen to phone calls of any statesman if “there is a compelling national security purpose.”

The president underscored America’s role as a guarantor of the security of its allies. Recognizing the many objectives of the bulk collection of signals intelligence, he emphasized combating sanctions evasion by trying to assuage those who remain skeptical of the Iranian nuclear deal. In other words, the NSA is constantly accumulating data to monitor the sanctions enforced on Iran. The White House is poised to act accordingly in order to constrain Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Obama shed light on the lack of transparency in China, by stating, “No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs.” The abysmal human rights record in Russia came under fire as well. According to President Obama, Russia may not “take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account.”

Moreover, Obama challenged Vladimir Putin for his Op-Ed published in the New York Times. In this article, President Putin denounced his U.S. counterpart’s claim of American exceptionalism. President Obama’s response: “Having faced down the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely, because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.” Most importantly, the president did not forget to emphasize that in this time of change, “the United States of America will have to lead.” Which is the bedrock of American foreign policy.