US Army Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of the US Cyber Command, director of National Security Agency (NSA), testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in Washington D.C. on June 12, 2013. (Xinhua/Fang Zhe)
Now we know that even the president needs leaks from Edward Snowden to be fully informed about the dastardly acts of his own top spy agency. It was Snowden's recent revelations that led Obama to order an investigation into spying on private communications of 35 world leaders, including our closest allies, a clear betrayal of the trust needed to establish a more peaceful world.
According to a Wall Street Journal account from senior U.S. officials, the president had been kept in the dark as to the extent of the NSA spy program: "President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn't have been practical to brief him on all of them. They added that the president was briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection 'priorities,' but that those below him make decisions about specific intelligence targets." Huh?
So it's beneath the president's pay grade to approve a decision on bugging the phones of most of the free world's leaders, and the president didn't know this was going on until Snowden leaked it? Yes, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines confirmed, employing the finest of bureaucratic gobbledygook: "The agency's activities stem from the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, which guides prioritization for the operation, planning and programming of U.S. intelligence analysis and collection."
On Sunday, Vines added the reassuring news that the report in the German newspaper Bild alleging that President Obama personally authorized the tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone back in 2010 was false. In any case, we already know, thanks again to information Snowden provided to another German publication, Der Spiegel, that the monitoring of Merkel's cellphone began back in 2002, when George W. Bush would have been the president the NSA kept out of the loop.