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We Can Hear You Now

No, we're not going to stop spying on friendly heads-of-state. But we might be about to make ourselves look like jerks, pretending we will:

President Obama is poised to order the National Security Agency to stop eavesdropping on the leaders of American allies, administration and congressional officials said Monday, responding to a deepening diplomatic crisis over reports that the agency had for years targeted the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

The White House informed a leading Democratic lawmaker, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, of its plans, which grew out of a broader internal review of intelligence-gathering methods, prompted by the leak of N.S.A. documents by a former contractor, Edward J. Snowden.

Years ago, and I think it might have been in a Clancy novel, somebody explained that when we eavesdrop on bad guys it's called "spying," but when we eavesdrop on allies it's just "keeping an eye on things." The trick is, not to get called out on it in such a public and embarrassing way.

But that ship has certainly sailed, hasn't it?