29 Oct 2013

Obama considers review of NSA spying on allies

Barack Obama says he wants to “review” the NSA’s spying operations, after the chair of the Senate intelligence committee said she was “totally opposed” to US spying on foreign allies.

The White House is considering a review of the NSA’s spying operations, President Obama said during a television interview with ABC’s Fusion network.

He said that the White House gives the NSA “policy direction”.

“But what we’ve seen over the last several years is their capacities continue to develop and expand, and that’s why I’m initiating now, a review to make sure that what they’re able to do, doesn’t necessarily mean what they should be doing,” he added.

A senior administration official also told Associated Press that the White House is considering ending its eavesdropping on foreign allies. The source added that the move was still under review, and that a final decision had not yet been made.

Revelations about the extent of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance has sent shockwaves across Europe, and were discussed in detail at last week’s European summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the 34 foreign leaders who have been spied on for years, according to intelligence leaks from Edward Snowden.

The pressure is mounting on the White House after a damning statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, who said on Monday that she was “totally opposed” to US spying on foreign allies.

Ms Feinstein has previously backed the NSA, but she spoke out after reports based on new leaks from former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden indicate that the NSA listened to Ms Merkel and other foreign leaders.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies – including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany – let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” Ms Feinstein said.

She added that the US should not be “collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers” unless in an emergency with approval of the president.

The head of the NSA and other officials will appear before the House of Representatives later on Tuesday.