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Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama said Friday he welcomed a debate on the role of the National Security Agency, but that leaks by Edward Snowden had caused “unnecessary damage” to U.S. intelligence capabilities.

Obama refused to be drawn at a year-end press conference on the possibility of amnesty or a presidential pardon for the fugitive IT contractor, who has been indicted on espionage charges.

“As important and as necessary as this debate has been, it is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage to U.S. intelligence capabilities and U.S. diplomacy,” Obama told reporters.

Intelligence chiefs say Snowden’s revelations, made via several media outlets, inflicted significant damage on U.S. clandestine operations against terror groups, while deeply embarrassing the Obama administration.

On Wednesday, a panel of legal and intelligence experts chosen by the White House recommended curbing the powers of the NSA, warning that its mass spying sweeps in the war on terror have gone too far.

The report said the NSA should halt the mass storage of domestic phone records, and called for new scrutiny on snooping on world leaders plus privacy safeguards for foreigners and fresh transparency over U.S. eavesdropping.

The 300-page report unveiled 46 recommendations to reshape U.S. surveillance policy following the explosive revelations by Snowden, which outraged U.S. allies and civil liberties advocates.

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President Joe Biden

Photo by The White House

Two tiresome realities about being president of the United States: first, everybody blames you for things over which you have little or no control: such as the worldwide price of oil, and international shipping schedules. Should there be too few electronic gee-gaws on store shelves to pacify American teenagers this Christmas, it will be Joe Biden’s fault.

Second, everybody gives you advice, whether you ask for it or not. Everywhere you look, Democrats and Democratically-inclined pundits are tempted to panic. “The cold reality for Biden,” writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait “is that his presidency is on the brink of failure.” A return to Trumpism, and essentially the end of American democracy, strikes Chait as altogether likely.

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