NSA Officials Livid That White House Is Pretending It Didn't Know About Spying On Foreign Leaders
from the the-wheels-of-the-bus-are-that-way dept
Earlier this month, we noted that anonymous NSA officials had been whining about not getting strong enough support from the White House. In particular, they seemed upset that President Obama wasn’t front and center in the press defending their actions and that he hadn’t stopped by at Ft. Meade to give them a pep talk. We found the whole thing pretty silly. The President had made remarks in support of the NSA and there were a bunch of other things on his plate at the time that seemed more pressing politically. And, also, if you need a pep talk from the President to be happy in your job, you’re probably in the wrong job.
However, such talk is getting much louder now that the President has apparently told people he had no idea the NSA was spying on foreign leaders. The NSA itself confirmed that Keith Alexander had never spoken to President Obama about spying on Angela Merkel, though it’s possible that the President knew about it from other sources. And, of course, now Senator Dianne Feinstein is insisting she never knew about spying on foreign leaders either. To be honest, both claims seem ridiculous — and it seems like this kind of weak response is further pissing off NSA officials. We already noted how NSA people were freaking out about Feinstein’s statements (though, some believe this is just for show), but the grumbling over the President’s statements is getting much louder as NSA officials recognize that it appears the President is positioning the NSA as a rogue agency, rather than one carrying out his orders.
Professional staff members at the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies are angry, these officials say, believing the president has cast them adrift as he tries to distance himself from the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have strained ties with close allies.
In particular, they say the claims that the President didn’t know about spying on foreign leaders is hogwash.
Precisely how the surveillance is conducted is unclear. But if a foreign leader is targeted for eavesdropping, the relevant U.S. ambassador and the National Security Council staffer at the White House who deals with the country are given regular reports, said two former senior intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing classified information.
Obama may not have been specifically briefed on NSA operations targeting a foreign leader’s cellphone or email communications, one of the officials said. “But certainly the National Security Council and senior people across the intelligence community knew exactly what was going on, and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.”
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.
The ramifications here may be serious, as the intelligence community apparently views this as President Obama completely throwing them under the bus:
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.”
What that actually means in the long run is less certain. It’s still entirely possible that this is all for show. In fact, the White House has already said Feinstein’s claim that the US would stop spying on foreign leaders is simply not true.
That said, if this means more and more NSA employees are disgruntled, I would imagine there are plenty of reporters ready and willing to help them blow the whistle on more things happening within the intelligence community. I’m guessing they already know what Glenn Greenwald’s email is, for example…