Face In the News: Denis McDonough defends NSA

This Sunday only on Face the Nation, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told Bob Schieffer that President Obama does not believe the collection of Americans' phone metadata violates their privacy. He stressed the fact that all three branches of government have oversight over the surveillance program and noted the President would discuss the issue with the American people soon.

McDonough told Schieffer: "The president is not saying trust me, The president is saying I want every member of Congress, on whose authority we are running this program, to be briefed on it,"

"When President Obama came into office in 2009, after being elected in 2008, he was pretty skeptical about the importance of these programs, so he took a very hard look at them," said McDonough "And as a result, we changed many things about how we oversee those programs." 

Obama has not spoken publicly about the NSA since former contractor Edward Snowden, revealed himself last week as the source behind the leaks of the surveillance programs. Snowden had since then fled to Hong Kong. While McDonough declined to go into detail about Snowden's investigation, he did admit not knowing his whereabouts.  

"I don't know where he is," McDonough said.

(For more commentary about Obama's plans to speak about the NSA, visit: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Politico, The Hill, The Huffington Post, Mediaite, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Washington Examiner.)

Switching over to foreign policy, McDonough continued to defend the Obama Administration saying there was 'No Rush' when it comes to the war in Syria. Referring to the war in Iraq, McDonough explained: "We've rushed to war in this region in the past; we're not going to do it here." He added: "We have to be very discerning about what's in our interest and what outcome is best for us, and the prices that we're willing to pay to get to that place."

Obama administration officials  announced last week that they are sending military aid to Syrian rebels, but did not specify that aid. McDonough also declined to say whether the U.S. is considering no-fly zone.

Critics of Obama's handling of the Syrian Civil War claim deficiency in the President's plan and that it won't prevent the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  

McDonough also said Sunday that the White House is open to talks with North Korea but want's "credible negotiations" that will lead to a nuclear-free North.

"We'll judge them by their actions, not by the nice words that we heard," he said.

Tensions have risen between the U.S. and North Korea as a result of North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket in December and a nuclear test in February.

The Associated Press notes, The latest proposal came as the North was under mounting pressure to abandon its atomic arsenal and its belligerent behavior, not only from the United States and its ally the South, but also Pyongyang's sole major ally, China.

United States, South Korea and Japan will meet in Washington on Wednesday to discuss ways to resume nuclear disarmament talks on the North.

"Those talks have to be real." Said McDonough

The Chief of Staff also made news when he told Bob Schieffer that Sunday's Presidential election in Iran was a "potentially hopeful sign" for the country.

He announced President Elect Hassan Rohani could eventually find partnership in the US if he lived up to his obligation "to come clean on this illicit nuclear program"

McDonough told Schieffer: If he (Rohani) is interested in, as he has said in his campaign, mending Iran's relations with the rest of the world, there is an opportunity to do that."

 (To read more on the U.S' involvement in other countries visit Politico, USA TodayThe Los Angeles Times, Reuters, The Morning Sun, The New York Times and the Associated Press)