Obama: Tapping designed to protect US

US president does not reveal whether he knew of world leaders' phone monitoring, claiming matter is confidential. Senate Intelligence Committee head: 'Obama, intelligence chiefs unaware of tapping

Washington - In an interview to ABC Monday night, US President Barack Obama refused to say whether he was aware in advance about the phone monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, arguing it is a confidential matter.


However, in order to try and ease the pressure, Obama tried to explain the purpose of the National Security Agency (NSA) tapping: "The national security operations, generally, have one purpose and that is to make sure the American people are safe and that I'm making good decisions. I'm the final user of all the intelligence that they gather. But they're involved in a whole wide range of issues."


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The American president further explain that "we give (the NSA) policy direction, 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."


The New York Times reported that according to US administration and congressional officials, President Obama is poised to order the NSA to stop eavesdropping on the leaders of American allies. According to the sources, the White House informed a leading Democratic lawmaker, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, of its plans, which grew out of a broader internal review of intelligence-gathering methods, prompted by the leak of NSA documents by a former contractor, Edward Snowden.


Merkel, Obama (Photo: AFP)
Merkel, Obama (Photo: AFP)

A spokeswoman for the NSA, Caitlin Hayden, said "we have already made some decisions through this process and expect to make more," adding that the review would be completed in December.


Feinstein released a statement in which she claims the president did not know of the personal tapping of Merkel and other foreign leaders. Her fierce response also stated that she herself was unaware of the eavesdropping and called for examining the entire intelligence program so that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee will be able to oversee the work of intelligence agencies.


"It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel's communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem," Feinstein said in her statement. According to her, even intelligence agencies heads were unaware of the tapping.


The White House's chief spokesman, Jay Carney, also addressed the issue and said the administration "acknowledged the tensions" caused by Snowden's disclosures, and "we have worked through our regular diplomatic channels to address some of those tensions." Carney made clear that the US should continue working towards protecting the security of it citizens and its allies, saying that many terrorist attacks were thwarted with this technology.


The White House spokesperson added that rapid technological changes were made especially after the September 11 attacks, which impacted the entire world of information gathering. Carney stressed that efforts are being made to increase transparency and control and to change the legislation.


Senate Intelligence Committee head, Diane Feinstein (right) (Photo: AP)
Senate Intelligence Committee head, Diane Feinstein (right) (Photo: AP)

Earlier Monday, American sources admitted for the first time that the NSA used to tap German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone, as well as the private communications of a row of other world leaders. The Wall Street Journal reported that according to these sources, the NSA terminated this operation after an internal probe held by the Obama administration uncovered the bugging project.


The program also involved as many as 35 other world leaders, some of whom were still being monitored, according to the report, as the paper notes this is the official admission of the US administration for tracking high-ranking leaders' phones. It was further claimed in the report that in his five years in office, until last summer, Barack Obama was unaware that his intelligence men were breaking into phone of different world leaders.


The sources who spoke with the paper made clear that while the president received general briefings regarding intelligence gathering priorities and approved them, it was his subordinates who made the decisions regarding specific individuals who should be monitored. According to them, the NSA has so many eavesdropping programs that it would be impractical to brief Obama on every single one.


Former CIA official: Snowden is traitor

Former Deputy Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Morell is unsurprisingly pointing his finger at leaker Edward Snowden. "He's a traitor," Morell attacked, and claimed the publication of confidential that Snowden took with him after leaving the NSA puts the US in great danger.


Morell, who served as acting CIA director after the resignation of David Petraeus and worked with three presidents, warned in his first interview with CBS that since his retiring over the attempt of many to make Snowden into a national hero.


One of Morell's last tasks within the CIA was to conduct damage control over Snowden's leaks: "I do not believe he is a hero, I believe he has betrayed his country. I think this is the most serious leak – the most serious compromise of classified information in the history of the US intelligence community."


Saying both the amount and type of information revealed by the spy secret leaker is equally damning, Mr Morell bemoaned the disclosure of the CIA budget. The "black book", as it is referred to, details the agency’s spending across all activities. "(Enemies) could focus their counterintelligence efforts on those places where we’re being successful, and not worry as much about those places where we’re not being as successful,’ Mr Morell lamented.



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פרסום ראשון: 10.29.13, 08:59
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