Despite the furor over spying on its friends, the Obama administration is undecided on whether it will stop surveillance of all its allies after the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee claimed it would do so, a White House official said today.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assertion that the administration has halted its surveillance of U.S. allies is “not accurate,” the senior administration official said in a statement.
“While we have made some individual changes, which I cannot detail, we have not made across the board changes in policy like, for example, terminating intelligence collection that might be aimed at all allies,” the official said.
Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said today she is “totally opposed” to the United States’ collecting intelligence on its allies and called for a ”major review” into all intelligence gathering programs.
“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies, including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany, let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” Feinstein said in a statement.
Feinstein called it a “big problem” that Obama was unaware of the surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and said the White House assured that her intelligence gathering on the United States’ allies would stop.
“The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support. But as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing. To that end, the committee will initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs,” she added.
Feinstein’s comments came in response to reports that Obama did not know the National Security Agency was secretly monitoring 35 world leaders, which included some U.S. allies. Feinstein said the Senate Intelligence Committee was also not informed of the NSA’s surveillance activities on world leaders.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she sees “no justification” for the United States to spy on its allies.
“Based on the information I have as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I know of no justification for the administration’s collection of intelligence on the leaders of our closest allies, such as Chancellor Angela Merkel,” Collins said.