Obama Defends Use of Surveillance Abroad

Secretary of State Kerry works to quell Europe's concerns over surveillance.
7:33 | 10/23/13

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Transcript for Obama Defends Use of Surveillance Abroad
I'm Dan -- New York with a CBC news digital special report Germany today. Becoming the latest in a long line of American allies to confront the White House. About the NSA surveillance program and by the end of the day President Obama was on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel promising her. That the US does not listen to her phone calls white house Press Secretary Jay -- face some tough questions on that matter during a briefing today. The report said -- Germany this morning that the German government believes. This part of this surveillance US government was monitoring chancellor -- cellphone can you confirm that I. I can tell you that today President Obama and chancellor Merkel spoke by telephone. Regarding the allegations that you mention. That the US National Security Agency intercepted the communications of the German chancellor -- can tell you that the president assured. The chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications. The chance. Not monitoring. Does that leave the door open the possibility NSA. As part of a broader -- picked up silver communications what was not hopeful. All you can tell you what the president told the chancellor. United States is not monitoring and will not monitor communications the chancellor. You know as -- said in the past. You know we gather foreign intelligence just like the agency's. Similar agencies. Of other countries. But we are working to as the president has said. To review the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly balance -- Security concerns of our citizens and allies. With the privacy concerns. That everyone shares. And so with that I want to go outside the White House where ABC's Mary Bruce is standing by eyewitness. Mary. Did Jay Carney who leave a little bit of wiggle room there or just very careful to say exactly what the dialogue was between the president. And chancellor Merkel. Absolutely in the White House is leaving open the possibility that the the US could have monitored. Chancellor Merkel communications in the past you'll notice it's an issue of semantics really. Press Secretary Jay Carney -- the White House is not monitoring will not monitoring his communications but he said nothing in the past ten. Now we went back to the White House and ask them about this. And they did not -- that it was a possibility that they could have been monitor her communications previously or at some point now that doesn't mean that the White House was necessarily intentionally targeting. Her communications if it was at all. Able to look at her communications back and forth but it apostle could have been part of a broader suite a German communications but. Overall this is something that is now still a possibility and keep in mind -- I don't Merkel and the president are very close allies this is a friend of the United States so this administration has some explaining to. -- the president making that trip to Germany over the summer and now is obviously something that was and a bit of a photo opportunity as well she running for reelection. But Mary let me ask you about this that obviously between just those two parties they are the ones that are privy to the specifics that was exchanged during that phone call but do we know. If the chancellor was satisfied with the president's -- All of the intelligence and surveillance it has been gathered based on her communications and she said that if confirmed that the US was in fact monitoring her communications. That it is unacceptable and a complete breach of trust so this issue will continue and Germany is not the only Western European allies concerned about US surveillance tactics and techniques who else has the president spoken to him. That's -- reports of US data snooping abroad kicked off a firestorm really around the world when it comes to US relations with some of their closest allies. The president earlier this week was on the phone with the president of France president along to try and and without concerns there about US surveillance activity in France last week he -- conversation came up again when the president was talking with the prime minister Italy's so absolutely this administration is putting out some fires across the world at present no longer wants to bring this issue to a larger audience. That's -- earlier in the week or reports that the US has been -- surveillance on thousands of French citizens. Along and the French government now want to bring this issue to be part of the agenda of an EU international summit that's coming up in fact the the French government. Called in the US ambassador and there's to explain what's going on so -- as we say this is absolutely -- continue to be a priority. In these conversations going forward Mary tell me about -- plans were set to take place tonight at the white house with a very special guest is supposed to be in town tonight and they were scrapped. That's -- the president was supposed to be having a big fancy state dinner here at the White House tonight but that was canceled because president of the president of Brazil is supposed to be the guest of honor. And she. Nixed her trip to the US when she found out. About -- -- -- surveillance activities. Involving her communications so yet another international leader who is being sort of burned and in effect -- idea. But US surveillance activities and -- let let there her displeasure be known and perhaps the White House having to do some explaining even at some point maybe -- some damage control about that. The bit to to bring -- -- -- the phone call that was made today with Germany then how do we know them that they get information about the potential. Of US surveillance on those calls. So that means -- report stemmed from from some -- -- is disclosures that were made by the German newspaper der Spiegel you'll remember that name from earlier in the year a lot of the revelations from an -- -- Edwards -- were published in that paper so. It's possibly believe that some of these new allegations stem from some of his information -- some of -- -- given all of this that's happening here with secretary of state John Kerry is overseas in Europe what kind of reception is he getting as this news is traveling throughout the world. This issue of US surveillance is absolutely. Following an overshadowing his entire trip. He's spending three days in Europe he arrived in France on Monday where those reports of -- of NSA surveillance and gathering -- Of data from -- citizens -- exploding that completely dominated conversations there today he's in Italy where once again his agenda has been completely gone into the water by having to talk about these issues focus on surveillance and American intelligence gathering so he had been hoping to talk about Syria. And the process moving forward there but of course now instead he's talking about American surveillance of -- is almost impossible to say surveillance and SA without also incorporating Edwards noticed he has had alluded to there when this is all said and done. Are we having this discussion is simply because of the fact that Edwards known or was this going to come out regardless. On the White House is always -- that this is an important issue one that they're happy to talk about. They're happy to discuss the importance of transparency when it comes to the need to gather intelligence abroad but it's hard to imagine that this conversation would be happening if it were not. But that -- -- -- -- -- Edwards and has the White House given any indication it expects any additional information to come out from stone or. Any fallout. I think they certainly hope that this is it but as we mentioned every day it seems you have. More the firestorm keeps growing and another international leader is displeased with that -- the about -- ministers and so getting a phone call from the Oval Office ABC's Mary Bruce outside of the White House Mary thank you that. We do have a complete report on abcnews.com. And on Dan York with this digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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