Intel Officials Says French And Spain Intelligence Agencies Did All The Dirty Work In Gathering Data On Millions Of Calls
from the so-many-twists,-from-so-many-twisted-entities dept
All that noise being made by French and Spanish officials over the NSA’s collection of millions of phone records is turning out to be just that: noise. The Wall Street Journal reports that, while the NSA did end up with millions of foreign phone records, it didn’t do the actual collection.
U.S. officials said the Snowden-provided documents had been misinterpreted and actually show phone records that were collected by French and Spanish intelligence agencies, and then shared with the NSA, according to officials briefed on those discussions.
U.S. intelligence officials studied the document published by Le Monde and have determined that it wasn’t assembled by the NSA. Rather, the document appears to be a slide that was assembled based on NSA data received from French intelligence, a U.S. official said.
Rather than being a domestic collection, like the Section 215 program, the records gathered by Spanish and French intelligence agencies apparently only touched calls originating outside of these two nations.
Based on an analysis of the document, the U.S. concluded that the phone records the French had collected were actually from outside of France, and then were shared with the U.S. The data don’t show that the French spied on their own people inside France.
U.S. intelligence officials haven’t seen the documents cited by El Mundo but the data appear to come from similar information the NSA obtained from Spanish intelligence agencies documenting their collection efforts abroad, officials said.
While this all seems very above-board, both for the NSA and the foreign intelligence agencies, there’s still a good chance that this isn’t the entire picture. The NSA is still very leery of exposing methods and sources and, despite trying to defuse the current outrage, it will probably still hold some cards close to its chest. Officials are even admitting this sudden burst of clarity still leaves things uncovered.
U.S. officials said the European collection programs were part of long-standing intelligence sharing arrangements between the U.S. and its closest allies. Officials said the figures may not reflect the entirety of the phone records collected by France and Spain.
So, while European officials may be playing this off as a horrible intrusion, the latest statements seem to indicate it isn’t. There may still be a layer of intrusion as of yet uncovered and both countries are still presumably doing their own domestic spying. If so, there are undoubtedly more outrages to come, only in this case, the public, rather than officials, will be making the most noise. The NSA’s many cozy relationships around the world are now backfiring, even when it’s not directly to blame. Making friends with foreign intelligence agencies while alienating foreign officials is a hell of a way to fight terrorism.