Intelligence officials said Monday that the White House and State Department approved surveillance of world leaders’ phone calls, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The LA Times report seems to contradict a Wall Street Journal report published Monday, which also cited anonymous officials, that said for almost five years President Barack Obama was unaware the National Security Agency monitored world leaders’ communications.
One anonymous official told the newspaper that although Obama may not have been briefed specifically on those NSA programs, National Security Council staff would have known about the surveillance. Some officials also told the Times that professional staff at U.S. intelligence agencies believe the White House blamed them for conducting lawful surveillance in an attempt to distance itself from the fallout caused by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures.
Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Monday in a statement that she is “totally opposed” to monitoring allied leaders, adding it was “a big problem” that Obama was reportedly not aware of the surveillance. Obama declined to discuss those reports Monday night in an interview with Fusion.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.