Oct 28, 2013 Comments Off Chuck Biscuits
WASHINGTON — The White House and State Department signed off on surveillance targeting phone conversations of friendly foreign leaders, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said Monday, pushing back against assertions that President Obama and his aides were unaware of the high-level eavesdropping.
Professional staff members at the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies are angry, these officials say, believing the president has cast them adrift as he tries to distance himself from the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have strained ties with close allies.
The resistance emerged as the White House said it would curtail foreign intelligence collection in some cases and two senior U.S. senators called for investigations of the practice.
France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Sweden have all publicly complained about the NSA surveillance operations, which reportedly captured private cellphone conversations by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among other foreign leaders.
On Monday, as Spain joined the protest, the fallout also spread to Capitol Hill.
Until now, members of Congress have chiefly focused their attention on Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA’s collection of U.S. telephone and email records under secret court orders.
“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies — including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany — let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers,” she said in a statement.
Feinstein said the Intelligence Committee had not been told of “certain surveillance activities” for more than a decade, and she said she would initiate a major review of the NSA operation. She added that the White House had informed her that “collection on our allies will not continue,” although other officials said most U.S. surveillance overseas would not be affected. Keep Reading