Despite US President Barack Obama rejecting the idea that he was aware of Washington’s spying on world leaders, the nation’s top spymaster said Tuesday that the president had been informed about the surveillance activities.
During a House Intelligence Committee hearing, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said that the National Security Agency and the CIA cannot tap into any leader’s private communications without permission from the White House.
The New York Times said Clapper did not specifically say whether Obama was told of the spying efforts, “but he appeared to challenge assertions in recent days that the White House had been in the dark about some of the agency’s practices.”
Clapper’s remark contradicts Obama’s claim that he didn’t know about the spying efforts.
The testimony came amid mounting questions about how the NSA collects information overseas, with congressional lawmakers calling for a review of surveillance programs.
Last week, revelations based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden showed that the US had monitored phone calls of 35 world leaders including that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander had briefed President Obama in 2010 that Merkel’s phone was being tapped. “Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,” the paper said, citing a high-ranking NSA official.
President Obama has promised a “complete review” of overseas spying operations and reportedly apologized to Merkel and the presidents of France and Brazil, who were also subject to NSA surveillance.