Report: Obama knew of Merkel phone hack 3 years ago
The Telegraph is reporting that President Obama knew of and approved the hacking of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone 3 years ago. This directly contradicts White House denials that the president knew of the surveillance on our close ally.
President Barack Obama was dragged into the trans-Atlantic spying row after it was claimed he personally authorised the monitoring of Angela Merkel's phone three years ago.
The president allegedly allowed US intelligence to listen to calls from the German Chancellor's mobile phone after he was briefed on the operation by Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), in 2010.
The latest claim, reported in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, followed reports in Der Spiegel that the surveillance of Mrs Merkel's phone began as long ago as 2002, when she was still the opposition leader, three years before being elected Chancellor. That monitoring only ended in the weeks before Mr Obama visited Berlin in June this year, the magazine added.
Citing leaked US intelligence documents, it also reported that America conducted eavesdropping operations on the German government from a listening post at its embassy beside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, one of more than 80 such centres worldwide.
Mr Obama's European allies will now ask him to say what he personally knew about the NSA's global eavesdropping operation and its targeting of world leaders, including those from friendly states. The White House declined to comment on the German media reports.
Meanwhile, the White House is claiming that President Obama cut off the surviellance on Merkel and other world leaders last summer when he first heard about the NSA's programs.
The White House cut off some monitoring programs after learning of them, including the one tracking Ms. Merkel and some other world leaders, a senior U.S. official said. Other programs have been slated for termination but haven't been phased out completely yet, officials said.
The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn't have been practical to brief him on all of them.
They added that the president was briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection "priorities," but that those below him make decisions about specific intelligence targets.
The senior U.S. official said that the current practice has been for these types of surveillance decisions to be made at the agency level. "These decisions are made at NSA," the official said. "The president doesn't sign off on this stuff." That protocol now is under review, the official added.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said NSA based its operations on priorities set across the U.S. government. "The agency's activities stem from the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, which guides prioritization for the operation, planning and programming of U.S. intelligence analysis and collection," she said.
The administration didn't end all operations involving world leaders following this summer's revelations because some of the programs are producing intelligence of use to the U.S.
It could not be learned Sunday how many of the eavesdropping operations were stopped, or who is on the list of leaders still under surveillance.
Sure. Some lower level NSA staffer made the decision to bug the leader of one of our most important allies. I believe it, don't you? What reason would the NSA have to tell the president they were hacking into the phone of the leader of a NATO ally that, if it ever became public, would be a monumental embarrassment and diplomatic tsunami?
None that I can think of off the top of my head.
This doesn't pass the smell test. And if the NSA is, indeed, running around hacking the phones and emails of world leaders without telling the president, they are a rogue agency that needs to be sat on.