As more and more allegations that the United States has been surveilling foreign officials come to light, President Obama has sought to distance himself and his administration from the activity by claiming they knew little or nothing of such activity. But such strong denials fly in the face of claims from other intelligence officials that Obama signed off such activity, and his supposed reluctance to admit as much is frustrating the intelligence community.
Per a new report from the Los Angeles Times, if a foreign leader was targeted by the NSA, both the respective U.S. ambassador and National Security Council staffer would be given regular reports on the matter. Obama might not have been given detailed specific on the matter but:
If U.S. spying on key foreign leaders was news to the White House, current and former officials said, then White House officials have not been reading their briefing books.
Some U.S. intelligence officials said they were being blamed by the White House for conducting surveillance that was authorized under the law and utilized at the White House.
"People are furious," said a senior intelligence official who would not be identified discussing classified information. "This is officially the White House cutting off the intelligence community."
Any decision to spy on friendly foreign leaders is made with input from the State Department, which considers the political risk, the official said. Any useful intelligence is then given to the president's counter-terrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco, among other White House officials.
While legislators like Senate Intelligence chair Dianne Feinstein have come out unequivocally against spying on foreign leaders—though she did claim that Obama was unaware—the other parties in question have given less definitive answers. Both the White House and National Security Council have promised to review their policies, which doesn't really mean a whole lot.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.