Once again, President Barack Obama is caught in a no-win situation with reports that the National Security Agency (NSA)monitored the telephone conversations of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany along with as many as 35 other world leaders. If it’s true, as has been reported, that the president had no knowledge of such spying, it is almost as damning if he did.
Contrary to Obama’s statements to Merkel last week, particularly that he had no knowledge of the tapping of her phone, comes word that he did, according to an unnamed official at the NSA. Apparently, according to the official, who also related his story to the Bild am Sonntag, another German publication, Obama “did not trust Merkel” and wanted to know everything about her, and thereby ordered the NSA to prepare a “dossier on the politician.”
During a call last week with a German official, Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, insisted that the president did not know about the monitoring of Merkel’s phone.
Once again, the disclosure comes as a result of Edward Snowden’s revelations that the administration was engaged in monitoring activities as early as 2002 on Merkel and before she became chancellor. Looming over the entire affair is the question of who authorized the spying, if the president didn’t? Perhaps James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, is responsible, but that has not been forthcoming, and so we are left in quandary of espionage.
As many of those governments know—or at least should know—there is nothing new about the U.S. government eavesdropping on other nations and their leaders, particularly under the guise of thwarting terrorism. To get to the bottom of all this is to backtrack to the first disclosure in Der Spiegel, the German magazine that broke the story about the spying on Merkel, largely due to the documents acquired by Snowden.
Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers defended the right of the U.S. to conduct intelligence operations on its allies. “Sometimes our friends have relationships with our adversaries,” he told reporters. “We need to be respectful, and we need to be accurate … but we should collect information that is helpful to the United States’ interests.”
He said, “The bigger news story here would be if the United States intelligence services weren’t trying to collect information that would protect U.S. interests both home and abroad.”
And so it goes, as a famous newscaster often stated at the end of his broadcast.
The NSA is based in Fort Meade, Md., and is assigned the task of monitoring communications overseas and does not track the domestic communications of U.S. citizens, or so it is assumed.