President Obama on Thursday dismissed a report this week providing new details about a $400 million payment to Iran as old news that only added one key detail that made it seem "like some spy novel or crime novel."

Because new reports have focused on the pallets of cash being airlifted to Iran, he said, "It feels like some spy novel or some crime novel."

"The only bit of news that we have on this is that we paid cash," the president said. He explained that the administration couldn't send a "check or wire money" because U.S. sanctions law bars it from engaging in financial transactions with Iran.

"It's been interesting to watch this story surface," Obama said. "Some of you may recall we announced these payments in January — many months ago. This wasn't a secret ... This wasn't some nefarious deal."

He reiterated the explanation that the $400 million was a payment made to Iran to settle a dispute at an international tribune over Iranian funds held in a U.S. bank for jet purchases that were frozen after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.

"As a consequence of working through the international tribunal, it was the assessment of our lawyers that there was significant litigation risk and we could end up costing ourselves billions of dollars ... It was their suggestion that we settle," he said.

Obama also denied any charges that the payments amounted to ransom for hostages, even though the payment arrived in Tehran in an unmarked cargo plane the same day Iran released the American hostages.

"We do not pay ransom for hostages — we've got a number of Americans being held around the world, and I meet with their families and its heartbreaking," he said. "These families know we have a policy of not paying ransom. The notion that we would start now ... even as we are looking into the faces of other hostage families ... and say to them that we don't pay ransom, defies logic."