President Obama’s defense on the latest NSA spying — that he knew nothing about it until it broke in the news — never made any sense. It did constitute throwing the intel community under the bus, though, and today comes the inevitable pushback.
WASHINGTON — The White House and State Department signed off on surveillance targeting phone conversations of friendly foreign leaders, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said Monday, pushing back against assertions that President Obama and his aides were unaware of the high-level eavesdropping.
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.
Recall that Obama himself had to trade in his BlackBerry for a “BarackBerry” in 2009, due to fears that his smartphone could be hacked by…drum roll please…foreign spies. Not specifically “enemy” spies, just “foreign.” He can’t credibly claim that he is unaware of spying that comes his way, or that our government does it to other leaders. Obama must surely be acutely aware that there are no such things as permanent alliances. He has treated most of our historic allies with contempt while he sidles up to some of our enemies. With Russia and China among the rising powers who flex their influence and want to reshape the monopolar world, the US would be foolish not to keep tabs on how other leaders are thinking and what they might be planning.
His excuse regarding spying on Merkel et al now casts US intelligence as nothing but rogue operations, just spying on everyone whenever it gets the itch. If that is the case, why isn’t President Barack Obama alarmed and calling for swift action to rein them in? If US spy agencies have all really gone rogue, another Washington “review” won’t cut it.
Obama isn’t moving with energy because he knows they’re not rogue at all. Back to the LA Times piece on how the White House knew all along:
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.
Well, that’s Obama’s one plausible defense. He never has been a president who does his security homework. He skips his daily intel briefings and was even AWOL on the night of Benghazi. If a subject provides him no poll advantage, he isn’t interested, and most of the time foreign policy means diddly to his base.
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.”
Indeed. It’s another Democrat Halloween Massacre.
Any decision to spy on friendly foreign leaders is made with input from the State Department, which considers the political risk, the official said. Any useful intelligence is then given to the president’s counter-terrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco, among other White House officials.
So we have a name. Monaco has been around the Obama White House since 2009. Have she and her boss never had a conversation?