U.S. intelligence officials are infuriated by Obama administration claims that it didn’t know the National Security Agency was tapping the phones of foreign leaders, calling the denials a “ridiculous” attempt by the White House to distance itself from sensitive operations it’s now embarrassed by.
“This is officially the White House cutting off the intelligence community,” a source told the Los Angeles Times for a story posted Monday night. “People are furious.”
One intelligence source told the Los Angeles Times that the president himself may or may not have known the specifics of whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone was being monitored, for instance, but he was getting personally briefed by people who did.
“Certainly the National Security Council and senior people across the intelligence community knew exactly what was going on, and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous,” the source said.
The official was responding to a report in Monday’s Wall Street Journal that quoted unnamed administration officials saying decisions about intelligence operations are made at levels below the White House. The president was unaware that foreign leaders were specifically targeted until an internal review of intelligence operations was conducted this summer, according to the report.
In other words, the spies were getting tossed under the bus. And they didn’t like it one bit.
The dueling reports are part of continuing fallout from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden, now living under temporary asylum in Russia.
The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported last week that Snowden-leaked documents showed the NSA had been monitoring Merkel’s cellphone since 2002, back when she was still the leader of the opposition in Germany. After the report, Obama called Merkel personally and told her he didn’t know about the operation, U.S. officials said.
No serious person, even the harshest Obama critic, could blame him for the U.S. spying on allies. It’s what countries do and have always done. Lying about it amateurishly and obviously is a different story.
Obama’s been the president for five years. The Merkel operation has been apparently going on for at least 10.
But he didn’t know anything about it until this summer?
As the intelligence source told the L.A. Times: “Ridiculous.”