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Obama talks about Edward Snowden, embassys on 'Tonight Show'

UPI News Service, 08/06/2013 

U.S. President Barack Obama discussed Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency and embassy closings during his visit to "The Tonight Show" Tuesday.

Obama said the United States did not overreact by closing 19 diplomatic outposts in the Middle East and North Africa this week. The move stems from ongoing fears of an imminent terrorist attack and not because Washington has any new intelligence about a suspected plot or plots, the State Department said.

Obama said at Tuesday's taping of "Tonight" Americans can still take vacations but should do so in a "prudent way" by checking State Department websites for up-to-day information before making plans.

"The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately," Obama said.

Questioned about the recently disclosed practices by the NSA, the president said government surveillance is a "critical component to counter-terrorism."

However, he added he knows the surveillance programs have "raised a lot of questions for people."

"We don't have a domestic spying program. What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack. ... That information is useful," he said.

Obama and host Jay Leno also talked about Edward Snowden, the former U.S. security contractor granted political asylum in Russia. He faces charges in the United States, including two espionage-related counts, for leaking information about the government surveillance program dubbed PRISM.

"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.

The commander in chief said he was disappointed in Russia's decision to aid Snowden but said the two nations still work together regarding actions in Afghanistan and the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings.

"There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality. What I continually say to them and to President Putin, that's the past," Obama said, announcing he will attend the upcoming G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

Tuesday's interview was Obama's sixth appearance on "The Tonight Show."

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