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(AP) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says President Obama's plans to make changes in National Security Agency surveillance programs stem from a single source: Edward Snowden.

Obama "validated Edward Snowden's role as a whistle-blower" with his proposals to revamp NSA programs, Assange said in a written statement Saturday.

MORE |Obama: 'I don't see Snowden as a patriot'

"But rather than thank Edward Snowden, the president laughably attempted to criticize him while claiming that there was a plan all along, 'before Edward Snowden,'" Assange said. "The simple fact is that without Snowden's disclosures, no one would know about the programs and no reforms could take place."

Obama would dispute that assessment, saying on Friday that his hopes to improve privacy protections within NSA programs and improve public information about those programs pre-date news about Snowden.

"I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," Obama said at a White House news conference, noting "I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks."

Snowden's actions only a generated a "more rapid and passionate" debate that has distorted NSA actions, Obama said.

There are limits on what the government can do with telephone and Internet data, and the programs do have congressional and judicial oversight, Obama said, but the programs can be improved.

As for Snowden -- who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia -- Obama said:

"The fact is, is that Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies. If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case."

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