What did Obama know about US spying abroad?
By Arun Kumar
Washington – Amid a brewing controversy over reports that the US was spying abroad, questions are being raised about what did President Barack Obama know and when did he find out?
Obama himself declined comment Monday on when he first became aware of the National Security Agency’s surveillance of 35 foreign leaders.
Citing the classified nature of the information, Obama said in an interview Monday that he wouldn’t comment on the Wall Street Journal’s reporting that he didn’t know about NSA’s surveillance of foreign leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel until earlier this year.
“I’m not confirming a bunch of assumptions that have been made in the press,” Obama told Fusion, the ABC News and Univision cable channel that launched Monday.
“But what I have said is that 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, and I’m the final user of all the intelligence that they gather.”
Obama’s comments came as Dianne Feinstein, Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the president and her panel were not aware of the full scale of NSA’s spying on foreign leaders.
Feinstein also said in a statement that the White House had told her that such data collection “will not continue.”
“It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem,” she said.
But White House press secretary Jay Carney declined Monday to confirm the Journal report and merely repeated the White House line that Merkel was not being monitored now and would not be in the future-without saying whether she had been targeted in the past.
But Peter King, former Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he “can’t believe that the President wouldn’t have known” more details on the extent of the NSA’s surveillance programmes.
“He certainly should have known and if he didn’t,” the told CNN.” “I think that’s almost more of a serious issue that something like that at that level would be conducted without him knowing it.”
King, who currently heads the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, suggested a significant failure within the administration if the President held negotiations with top foreign leaders without knowledge of the surveillance of their private phone calls.
But King defended the NSA programme, again urging the President to stop “apologising” for the surveillance. He also declined to support stopping the collection intelligence on US allies.