Today, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett that he did not want to "get into the specifics of how the president is briefed on different intelligence operations..." when asked about what President Obama knows about spy programs that allegedly targeted thirty-five world leaders.
The particularly egregious claim that the United States would spy on her allies, specifically targeting world leaders (even claims that the US bugged the personal cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel), has generated a firestorm of criticism from allies, as reported today by Andrea Mitchell and Erin McClam of NBC.
White House press secretary Jay Carney stressed that
“the work that’s being done here saves lives and protects the United States and protects our allies, and protects Americans stationed in very dangerous places around the world.”
His statement rings hollow. Sen. Dianne Feinstein stressed that President Obama was not aware of the snooping and said,
"With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies-including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany-let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed..."
Feinstein seems to be distressed over snooping of foreign leaders, but not so much over the rampant domestic surveillance. The Examiner reported in June that she responded to allegations of snooping on Americans by saying, "It's called protecting America..."
Is it any surprise that the federal government is spending taxpayer dollars to spy on allies? After all, they have no problem spying on Americans, a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. In just one of many similar revelations, Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani of the Washington Post reported earlier this month,
"The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans..."
The NSA also collects "nearly all U.S. call records." President Obama has blatantly flip-flopped on this issue, as reported by the Examiner. In 2007, he asserted,
"That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime...it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists....The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works...This Administration [referring to George W. Bush] acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not."
Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian asked Friday, "Can even President Obama and his most devoted loyalists continue to maintain, with a straight face, that this is all about Terrorism?"