On the same day that German officials censured the U.S. government for the NSA’s surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, new revelations show that 35 world leaders (not named in the report) were given the similar spy treatment.
The Guardian reported Thursday that the NSA “monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another U.S. government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.”
Via the Guardian:
The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its “customer” departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.
The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoring by the NSA.
… The memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced “little reportable intelligence”. In the wake of the Merkel row, the US is facing growing international criticism that any intelligence benefit from spying on friendly governments is far outweighed by the potential diplomatic damage.
Reports this week of the NSA’s surveillance of millions of French phone calls, along with news of phonetapping the U.S.’s allied governments, has prompted a diplomatic maelstrom, which may well force the administration to respond to public outrage over its sprawling surveillance programs — as if it weren’t enough to draw censure from the American public alone. Crucially, the White House admitted this week that the revelations about spying on French calls raised “legitimate questions.” Now a host of world leaders have been drawn in to the equation, there’s simply no denying the significance of Snowden’s leaks — not only in the service of the American public, but shedding light on U.S. diplomatic (and not-so-diplomatic) operations.