A public dispute is simmering between the NSA and the State Dept. over U.S. spying and whether policymakers requested wiretaps of foreign leaders.
Secretary of State John Kerry and NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander pointed fingers in separate public comments yesterday, and a State Dept. spokeswoman today deflected questions on Alexander’s assertions.
On Thursday, Kerry said U.S. surveillance has gone “too far” at times and has been “on an automatic pilot,” speaking in a teleconference with an open-government summit in London — insinuating the intelligence community had pursued surveillance without direct oversight from Kerry or President Obama.
Last night, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander suggested that it was U.S. diplomats and policymakers who requested the wiretaps that have caused embarrassment for the U.S. abroad.
Alexander, speaking at a Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs event, said the NSA was asked to discover “leadership intentions” of foreign countries, The Guardian reported.
“We the intelligence agencies don’t come up with the requirements. The policymakers come up with the requirements,” Alexander said, when pressed for a national-security justification for spying on foreign leaders by Maryland state senator James Carew Rosapepe.
“One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh, ambassadors,” Alexander said, tweaking Rosapepe, who also happens to be a former U.S. ambassador to Romania.
At today’s State Department briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki deflected questions on whether the State Department bears responsibility for the wiretaps.
“We’re all working together, the White House, the State Department, any department that has any connection with foreign governments,” Psaki said, when pressed on whether the department accepts Alexander’s assertions.