AP: Susan Rice: Snowden leaks haven't weakened Obama

Jun. 29, 2013 @ 02:07 PM

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice dismissed claims that Edward Snowden's highly classified leaks have weakened the Obama presidency and damaged U.S. foreign policy, insisting that the United States will remain "the most influential, powerful and important country in the world."

Rice's remarks were her only public ones on Snowden and came in an interview with The Associated Press as she prepared to leave the U.N. post and start her new job Monday as President Barack Obama's national security adviser.

She said it's too soon to judge whether there will be any long-term serious repercussions from the intelligence leaks by the former National Security Agency contractor who fled to Hong Kong and then Russia after seizing documents disclosing secret U.S. surveillance programs in the U.S. and overseas, which he has shared with The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers.

"I don't think the diplomatic consequences, at least as they are foreseeable now, are that significant," she said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have called Snowden's leaks a serious breach that damaged national security. Hagel said Thursday an assessment of the damage is being done now.

"There will always be difficult issues of the day," Rice said, "and frankly this period is not particularly unique."

"I think the Snowden thing is obviously something that we will get through, as we've gotten through all the issues like this in the past," she said in the interview Thursday before heading to a lunch in her honor hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The United States has charged Snowden with espionage and demanded his extradition, but China and Hong Kong let him fly to Moscow and the Russians have so far refused. The Snowden case has not only raised tensions with Moscow and Beijing but with many Americans concerned about the NSA collecting their Internet and phone data.

Rice dismissed commentators who say Snowden's disclosures have made Obama a lame duck, damaged his political base, and hurt U.S. foreign policy, saying: "I think that's bunk."

"I think the United States of America is and will remain the most influential, powerful and important country in the world, the largest economy, and the largest military, (with) a network of alliances, values that are universally respected," she said.

Rice said Obama has "significant ambitions and a real agenda" for his second term, pointing to major speeches last week on disarmament and nonproliferation and this week on the impact of climate change.

As for Snowden, she said, "It's often, if not always something, and U.S. leadership will continue to be unrivaled, demanded, expected — and reviled and appreciated around the world."