WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama understands why the media and the world might be fascinated by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, but he says Snowden's not worth the attention.
At a press conference in Senegal on Thursday, Obama dismissed Snowden as a "29-year-old blogger" who's not worth all the time being spent on him.
Though the United States has made it clear it wants Snowden back, Obama said he hasn't directly engaged the leaders of China or Russia — the two nations that have harbored Snowden so far on his international run from U.S. authorities — basically because doing so isn't worth the trouble.
"I have not called President Xi [Jinping] personally or President [Vladimir] Putin personally. And the reason is because, number one, I shouldn't have to. This is something that routinely is dealt with between law enforcement officials in various countries. And this is not exceptional from a legal perspective," Obama said. "Number two, we've got a whole lot of business that we do with China and Russia. And I'm not going to have one case of a suspect who we're trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I've got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues simply to get a guy extradited, so that he can face the justice system here in the United States."
Snowden's personal story, and his escape from the United States, has threatened to overshadow the information he leaked to the Guardian and Washington Post. Obama said Snowden may have more to leak but suggested he's already made his biggest impact.
"The damage that's been done essentially goes to the fact of some of these programs," Obama said. "And we don't yet know what other documents he may try to dribble out there."
The president said the Snowden story is becoming sensational, and insisted he's not as focused on Snowden as the media is.
"I get why it's a fascinating story from a press perspective. And I'm sure there will be a made-for-TV movie somewhere down the line," Obama joked. "But in terms of U.S. interests, the damage was done with respect to the initial leaks."
The president said not to expect that TV movie to become an action flick.
"I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker," Obama quipped when asked if he would consider using "U.S. military assets to in any way intercept Mr. Snowden."
Asked about Obama's "Snow-who" attitude, former White House National Security Council Spokesperson Tommy Vietor said the president was trying to throw cold water at some of the more incendiary rumors circling the Snowden story.
"He's probably just responding to all the hyperbolic reports suggesting we would force down the plane if it came over us soil," he said. "It all got a bit hysterical."
Evan McMorris-Santoro is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News.
Contact Evan McMorris-Santoro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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