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Report: White House stopped phone tapping of foreign leaders this summer
October 28, 2013 at 8:56 AM

(CNN) -- The White House learned this summer that the National Security Agency had tapped the phones of world leaders and ordered a halt to some of the eavesdropping, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Quoting unidentified U.S. officials, the newspaper's website said the wiretapping of about 35 foreign leaders was disclosed to the White House as part of a review of surveillance programs ordered by President Barack Obama after NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified details of the NSA's phone monitoring systems.

The White House ordered a halt to the monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and unspecified other leaders, the newspaper reported. The Journal report did not specify who gave the shutdown order or the date it was issued.

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Responding to the report for the White House, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden did not directly address surveillance of foreign leaders. Instead, she described the ongoing review as "including when it comes to our closest foreign partners and allies."

Merkel said last week that reports of American spying on her and other leaders had "severely shaken" relationships between the United States and European nations.

The German leader said she told Obama last week that eavesdropping among friends "is never acceptable." The White House said at the time that Merkel's communications were not being monitored -- without saying whether she had been targeted in the past.

Should the president know wiretap details?

The officials quoted by The Wall Street Journal said it was understandable that Obama did not know about the phone tapping of Merkel and other leaders for nearly five years of his presidency because the NSA has so many eavesdropping programs, it would not have listed all of them for the president.

"The president doesn't sign off on this stuff," one official was quoted as saying. But the official said that policy was under review, the Journal reported.

The Journal report said some surveillance of foreign leaders continues, and surveillance of others is being phased out.

NSA denies chief told Obama about Merkel tap

Separately, the NSA on Sunday denied a report by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that NSA Director Keith Alexander told Obama about the surveillance of Merkel in 2010.

"Gen. Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel," NSA spokeswoman Vanee' Vines told CNN.

German intelligence officials are scheduled to meet with their American counterparts in Washington this week to ask about surveillance programs.

Other news media reports, based on documents leaked by Snowden, have said the NSA monitored the communications of the leaders of Brazil and Mexico.

Germany and Brazil are drafting a United Nations resolution on privacy in electronic communication, officials in those countries said last week.

Report: NSA monitored 60 million Spanish calls in 30 days

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported Monday that the NSA collected data from 60 million phone calls in Spain in one 30-day period.

One of the authors of the El Mundo article was Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first reported on documents supplied by Snowden for the British newspaper The Guardian.

The El Mundo article cited what it said was an NSA report titled, "Spain -- last 30 days." The 60 million calls were not recorded, but the NSA collected serial numbers of devices, phone numbers, locations and durations of calls, the newspaper said.

Even before the latest report, the Spanish government had summoned U.S. Ambassador James Costos to a meeting scheduled Monday in Madrid. That followed a report by another Spanish newspaper, El Pais, quoting unnamed sources as saying the NSA spied on Spanish officials and politicians.

The French daily newspaper Le Monde reported last week on claims that the NSA intercepted more than 70 million phone calls in France in 30 days. That report did not specify whether the calls were recorded or whether the interceptions were limited to data about calls.



  • candlegal
    October 28, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    sealed lip

  • DSamuels
    October 28, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    Damage control anyone?

  • lga1965
    by lga1965
    October 28, 2013 at 9:42 AM
    In another thread this morning, we were told that the wiretapping began several years ago during the previous administration and just now is being revealed. But it has been stopped.
  • denise3680
    October 28, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Honestly I find it a fake outrage by most people on this whole wiretapping thing. This type of thing has been going on for many many years, all in the name of national security, people get profiled, people get listened too.  You know the old saying " Keep your friends close but your enemies closer"  We just got caught with our hands int he cookie jar, so what:/  shit happens, it is not going to stop they will just get alittle more clever with it. 

  • sweet-a-kins
    October 28, 2013 at 5:09 PM

     The Phone taps have been going on for 10 years

    any comments?

    Who authorized the programs?

    Quoting candlegal:

    sealed lip


  • sweet-a-kins
    October 28, 2013 at 5:11 PM


    (CNN) -- It may not be as gripping as a spy novel, but things are heating up after the latest reports of espionage by the U.S. National Security Agency.

    International leaders say they're outraged, and the Obama administration says it's investigating.

    Here are five key questions to keep in mind:

    1. Are U.S. President Barack Obama's hands clean in this?

    It's not really clear.

    The Wall Street Journal reported that an internal review of U.S. surveillance programs that started this summer revealed the NSA had tapped the phones of about 35 world leaders and that the White House ordered a halt to some of it.

    That would suggest the President did not know about the programs for the nearly five years he has been in office.

    The White House says the President did not know specifically about the tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, but hasn't said anything about what he knew regarding spying on any other world leaders.

    2. What does it say about Obama as a leader if he didn't know?

    Officials say it's understandable that Obama wouldn't know about specific wiretapping of leaders because the NSA has so many surveillance programs and he would not be briefed on all of them.

    But if, as reported, some of the programs date back to the Bush administration, one would think Obama would have been briefed on this when he took office.

    That raises questions about whether Obama knew and is shaving the truth or his own intelligence community kept him in the dark. Neither answer is satisfying.

    3. What has Obama done about it?

    That's a key question.

    In a USA Today op-ed published last week, Obama's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco conceded that recent "disclosures have created significant challenges in our relationships." To address them, the President has ordered a "review (of) our surveillance capabilities, including with our foreign partners," she wrote.

    As accusations mount and the issue becomes increasingly thorny diplomatically, it's unclear what Obama has said and done behind closed doors.

    The Wall Street Journal's report, which cites unidentified U.S. officials, did not specify who gave the shutdown order or the date it was issued.

    Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday that Obama learned of an operation to monitor Merkel from the head of the NSA and allowed it to continue -- a claim the NSA has denied.

    4. Who's upset about this?

    The latest spying claims have roiled leaders in Europe and Latin America, who have accused the U.S. government of breaking the law, summoned U.S. diplomats for answers and said their confidence in the United States is shaken.

    In Germany, some leaders have suggested tabling discussions of a European Union free trade deal with the United States in response.

    In the United States, some have dismissed the foreign leaders' criticism as political bluster, arguing that spying is a common practice in international relations, even for allies.

    "These leaders are responding to domestic pressures in their own country. None of them are truly shocked about any of this. ... Everyone spies on everybody. And that's just a fact," U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, told CNN last week.

    A prominent Republican lawmaker told CNN on Sunday that such surveillance programs keep U.S. allies safe.

    "If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan. "This whole notion that we're going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interest, I think is disingenuous."

    5. What would the U.S. hope to learn by spying on its allies?

    The United States says its surveillance programs are for the purpose of foiling terrorist plots, but there are many political reasons for interest in communications of world leaders.

    For example, some media reports suggest the tapping of Merkel's phone increased in 2010, around the time of the financial crisis in the Eurozone, in which Merkel was a major player.

    The U.S also wants as much information as possible about the actions of other states to make its own decisions about important foreign policy issues, such as Syria and Iran. At the end of the day, allies cannot automatically count on each other's loyalty.

    And Washington may use its intelligence to make sure its allies are, in fact, just that.

  • cjsbmom
    by cjsbmom
    October 28, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    I agree. And other countries are doing it, too, including some of the ones who are feigning the most indignity over the US doing it to them. 

    Quoting denise3680:

    Honestly I find it a fake outrage by most people on this whole wiretapping thing. This type of thing has been going on for many many years, all in the name of national security, people get profiled, people get listened too.  You know the old saying " Keep your friends close but your enemies closer"  We just got caught with our hands int he cookie jar, so what:/  shit happens, it is not going to stop they will just get alittle more clever with it. 

  • DSamuels
    October 28, 2013 at 8:48 PM

    I was just reading that the WH is denying it stopped. Do they really think people are dumb enough that we can't remember their lies day to day?

  • DSamuels
    October 28, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    Here's the full article.

    A senior administration official on Monday rejected Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein's claim that the U.S. has halted intelligence collection against its allies.

    In a statement released earlier Monday, the California Democrat said that the White House "has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue."

    But the administration official called that statement "not accurate."

    "While we have made some individual changes, which I cannot detail, we have not made across the board changes in policy like, for example, terminating intelligence collection that might be aimed at all allies," the administration official said.

    After the administration’s statement, a spokesman for Feinstein clarified that the senator intended to say that the U.S. was ceasing "collection on foreign allied leaders.” 

    Feinstein also said that it was her understanding President Obama "was not aware" the U.S. had been monitoring the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Obama first learned of the program, which apparently began in 2002, during an internal audit of intelligence practices this summer.

    In an interview Monday afternoon with Fusion, the president refused to comment when asked about when he became aware of the surveillance.

    Obama did concede that the nation's intelligence community was "involved in a whole wide range of issues" and said he was reviewing practices to make sure they balanced security and privacy concerns.

    “We give them policy direction,” Obama continued. “But what we've seen over the last several years is their capacities continue to develop and expand, and that's why I'm initiating now a review to make sure that what they're able to do, doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing.”

    National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said that while she was not in a position to announce the outcomes of that review, "we have already made some decisions through this process and expect to make more as we continue."

    The administration has announced at least one determination, however. White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that Obama assured Merkel in a private phone conversation that the administration was not currently monitoring her cell phone, nor would they do so in the future.

    Read more: 

  • candlegal
    October 29, 2013 at 6:22 AM

    Quoting DSamuels:

    I was just reading that the WH is denying it stopped. Do they really think people are dumb enough that we can't remember their lies day to day?

    They have already proven that .  Why do you think the white house continues to get away with it?  Many continue to give him a pass no matter how much he lies and deceives.

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