There are some CEOs who insist that everything has to run through them -- former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was rumored to take such a stance. As head of the world's most powerful nation, though, U.S. President Barack Obama is not in that much control, and as the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, he was unaware of the existence of the NSA's domestic spying program, which involves Internet traffic, emails, cell phones, and far, far more.
According to the report, the program was severely curtailed this summer after an internal review by the White House uncovered the program, including the fact that the phones of 35 world leaders were being monitored. Among them was the head of one of the U.S.' allies, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
A senior U.S. official told the WSJ that the White House cut off some of the monitoring programs after learning of them, including the aforementioned one tracking Merkel and 34 other world leaders. There are other programs already slated for termination, but they have not been phased completely out yet, officials said.
The above official added that current practice is for these types of surveillance decisions to be made at the agency level, not at the highest level. He said:
These decisions are made at NSA. The president doesn't sign off on this stuff.
Delegate, delegate, delegate, but even given that, the official said that the protocol was now under review.
Although the U.S. has ceased collecting data from Merkel and a number of other world leaders, there is another group of world leaders, officials said, for which the U.S. has already decided to halt eavesdropping efforts, but for whom the collection efforts continue as operations have not been completely terminated.
One new tidbit which emerged since details about the spying on Merkel and others was leaked: The tapping of Merkel's lines began in 2002, and she has only been Chancellor of Germany since 2005, although she has been the leader of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000.
Revelations about the NSA's global spying program, initially outed by former contractor Edward Snowden to the Washington Post and The Guardian, have continued since they first appeared in print in June. Snowden is living in Russia under temporary political asylum.