Following recent complaints by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that her phone was being tapped by the NSA, it now appears that she was just one of thirty-five world leaders according to a report in the Guardian:
The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its “customer” departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.
The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoring by the NSA.
After Merkel’s allegations became public, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that said the US “is not monitoring and will not monitor” the German chancellor’s communications. But that failed to quell the row, as officials in Berlin quickly pointed out that the US did not deny monitoring the phone in the past.
The NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders – and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so.
The program has provided intelligence to add additional world leaders to those under surveillance but beyond this has provided “little reportable intelligence.” I imagine that to those who have the mentality that records should be kept on every phone call made in the United States, a program which increases the number of world leaders they can spy of is of value.
This report has led to protests from the European Union, including Germany, France, and Italy. I wonder how much useful intelligence might be denied to the United States in the future if other nations should be come wary about sharing intelligence with the United States.