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Obama: Reform ahead for NSA surveillance program

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AP Photo - Jacquelyn Martin AP Photo - Jacquelyn Martin

By Julie Pace, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Responding to critics, President Barack Obama promised Friday to work with Congress on "appropriate reforms" for domestic surveillance programs that were thrust into the public eye by leaker Edward Snowden, pointing the way to what could be the most comprehensive changes since the anti-terror Patriot Act was passed in the wake of the attacks of Sept, 11, 2001.

"It's not enough for me to have confidence in these programs," the president declared at a White House news conference shortly before a scheduled departure on a weeklong vacation. " The American people have to have confidence in them as well." The president announced a series of changes in a program that daily collects millions of records of phone calls made by Americans.

As for Snowden, recently granted temporary asylum by Russia, Obama said he is not a patriot, as some have suggested, and challenged him to return to the United States to face espionage charges.

The hour-long news conference ranged over numerous issues, although the president became especially animated when the questions turned to Republicans in Congress. He said they would risk the wrath of the public if they vote to shut down the government this fall in an attempt to cut off funding for his signature health care program.

He said that while he was receptive to House Republicans proposing an alternative immigration bill, his preference was for a vote on a Senate-passed measure that combines border security with a chance at citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

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