New Snowden revelation: NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders in 2006

posted at 7:21 pm on October 24, 2013 by Allahpundit

I’m … outraged?

Today’s news has nothing to do with Snowden’s alleged goal of awakening Americans to violations of their civil liberties by the U.S. government, but that’s par for the course. One of the early scoops to come from his cache this summer was the fact that the NSA had bugged Medvedev’s communications at the G20 back in 2009. That was the first clue after the initial uproar over PRISM that, for all his rhetoric, this wasn’t just about protecting his countrymen’s privacy. I wonder if that’s even what it’s mainly about. The revelations about domestic data-mining have been less of a headache for the White House on balance than the fallout internationally over NSA spying on allies like Angela Merkel, but Snowden couldn’t get away with the latter if he wasn’t also responsible for the former. His image as a whistleblower is built on the domestic stuff, which in turn generates political capital he can spend on the foreign stuff. That’s why, I think, instead of rushing out all the big scoops about what the NSA is doing to Americans, his media contacts dribble them out piecemeal and sporadically. They’re friendly reminders, amid the attempts to damage U.S. diplomatic relations with European and South American nations, that Snowden’s supposedly On Your Side.

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…

“In one recent case,” the [2006] memo notes, “a US official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders … Despite the fact that the majority is probably available via open source, the PCs [intelligence production centers] have noted 43 previously unknown phone numbers. These numbers plus several others have been tasked.”…

But the memo acknowledges that eavesdropping on the numbers had produced “little reportable intelligence”. In the wake of the Merkel row, the US is facing growing international criticism that any intelligence benefit from spying on friendly governments is far outweighed by the potential diplomatic damage.

Given how the NSA’s technological capabilities have grown over time, I’d be surprised if they’re not monitoring the calls of every world leader on Earth by now. Which would be a terrible thing, because … why? Lefty Peter Beinart has a nifty bit of concern-trolling at the Daily Beat about how dastardly right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh would be outraged at Germany if they got caught tapping the White House’s phones whereas they’re completely sanguine about the fact that we’re tapping Merkel’s. Even if that were true, which it’s not, so what? Go figure that Americans want an informational advantage for America over everyone else, allies included. But as I say, it’s not true. If the White House left itself that vulnerable, most public outrage here at home would be aimed at the NSA and CIA for failing so badly at counterespionage, not at the Germans for engaging in it. China’s hard at work each day hacking or trying to hack every computer in America, but no one on either side is pounding the table to bomb Beijing over it. They’re spying; that’s what spies do. I hope/trust that the NSA’s mining everything China has in return, in real time if possible. Arguably the calculus is different when friendly nations spy on each other since the alliance depends to some degree on trust, and aggressive spying might jeopardize that trust. Even there, though, says Marc Ambinder, why be surprised that an intelligence agency would risk it? Gathering information is their job, and the more exclusive that information is, the more theoretically valuable it’ll likely be.

The NSA also collects strategic intelligence. It must, because the United States does not have the freedom to act without consequences, and without, in many cases, the aid and acquiescence of allies. Make no mistake: For the NSA, giving the U.S. president valuable information to the exclusion of every other country and leader in the world is not a morally ambiguous goal. It’s the goal. It’s not controversial.

In order to map out out the geopolitical space within which the president will act, he needs to have solid intelligence, a good guesstimate, on what other countries are going to do and how they will respond to whatever he decides to do. The president wages war, conducts diplomacy negotiates economic treaties, imposes sanctions, and works to promote U.S. interests abroad. Strategic intelligence should inform all of these decisions, not simply those that involve the military.

It’s one thing to say that the United States’ actions don’t always match up with the values we espouse, and that’s true. When our hypocrisy is exposed, our moral authority wanes and our ability to maneuver is reduced.

It’s quite another to assume that other countries are any purer. They never have been and probably won’t be.

It’s “icky” that we use the same methods to spy on friends like Merkel as we do enemies, says Ambinder, but whether ickiness ever would or ever should deter an intelligence bureau from maximizing its informational advantage is a separate matter. If anything, the White House and the NSA are in the same position here as they are in handling counterterrorism, where political incentives force the feds to err on the side of aggressiveness lest they be seen in the aftermath of a major intelligence failure as not having done everything they could to prevent it. To me, the most revealing bit from today’s Guardian report is how little value the NSA apparently found in listening in on foreign leaders’ calls; that makes me wonder whether, as standard counterespionage practice, those leaders have been guarding what they say because they already suspect there might be eavesdroppers in the digital age, whether from China, Russia, the U.S., the UK or somewhere else. No one knows for sure except Merkel and her advisors, but everyone knows for sure that revealing the fact of this eavesdropping puts her in a position where she needs to express outrage towards the U.S., whether it’s sincere or not. That means damage to U.S./German relations and that has all sorts of bad consequences potentially. What’s the gain to Americans’ civil liberties from it?


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I knew someone was listening in when I talked to the Queen!

LeftCoastRight on October 24, 2013 at 7:24 PM

It’s a prestige thing for allies, frenemies, and enemies. Being on the list means you’re a somebody.

Just wait until Snowden reveals your real name, AP.

Christien on October 24, 2013 at 7:29 PM

I knew someone was listening in when I talked to the Queen!

LeftCoastRight on October 24, 2013 at 7:24 PM


Me too!

Except, in my case, I am referring to my gay brother.

;)

PolAgnostic on October 24, 2013 at 7:31 PM

If the White House left itself that vulnerable, most public outrage here at home would be aimed at the NSA and CIA for failing so badly at counterespionage, not at the Germans for engaging in it.

A-yup.

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

That’s about the only thing I could see getting upset about. One senior official giving another his phone number so they have some back channel discussions, and the latter gives it to the spy agency to track all his calls, yeah, that’s a bit different than a senior official having his phone hacked by the spy agency.

rbj on October 24, 2013 at 7:31 PM

They’re friendly reminders, amid the attempts to damage U.S. diplomatic relations with European and South American nations, that Snowden’s supposedly On Your Side.

Spying on your friends doesn’t damage the relations, Snowden telling them damages your relations?

Sort of like cheating on your wife doesn’t hurt your marriage, Snowden telling her damages your marriage?

Axe on October 24, 2013 at 7:33 PM

2006? Bush?

sandee on October 24, 2013 at 7:34 PM

Could the NSA publish the latest news on the Royal Baby for my wife?

philw1776 on October 24, 2013 at 7:34 PM

2006? Bush?

sandee on October 24, 2013 at 7:34 PM

Would that surprise you?

Also, don’t you remember from the Clinton days?

Cage Carnivore / Clinton needs to act to tame FBI e-mail surveillance

“TRUST US. We are the government.” That’s what the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are asking the American public to do when they seek to assure us that no one’s privacy is being violated by its new online wiretapping system.

CWchangedhisNicagain on October 24, 2013 at 7:39 PM

Lefty Peter Beinart has a nifty bit of concern-trolling at the Daily Beat about how dastardly right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh would be outraged at Germany if they got caught tapping the White House’s phones whereas they’re completely sanguine about the fact that we’re tapping Merkel’s. Even if that were true, which it’s not, so what?

.
The take away here is Snowden is of a very liberal outlook, also.

Many liberals view the necessary evils of the world as something the U.S. should NEVER DO.

I will agree we must put a stop to people making the same choice as Snowden to publish when we engage in those necessary evils.

We should immediately take steps to insure NO ONE with access to our highest levels of intelligence has a Liberal’s World View.

We should start at the TOP and work our way down to remove these people as threats to our vital national interests!

;->

All in agreement, please say, “Aye.”

PolAgnostic on October 24, 2013 at 7:40 PM

2006? Bush?

sandee on October 24, 2013 at 7:34 PM

Would that surprise you?

Also, don’t you remember from the Clinton days?

No I guess I’m not surprised but why is obama apologizing? How come he isn’t blaming Bush?

sandee on October 24, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Sort of like cheating on your wife doesn’t hurt your marriage, Snowden telling her damages your marriage?

Axe on October 24, 2013 at 7:33 PM


Cheating on RWM can shorten your LIFE … and she don’t need “no stinkin’ Snowden”

PolAgnostic on October 24, 2013 at 7:43 PM

No I guess I’m not surprised but why is obama apologizing? How come he isn’t blaming Bush?

sandee on October 24, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Because it continues under O.

CWchangedhisNicagain on October 24, 2013 at 7:45 PM

It’s “icky” that we use the same methods to spy on friends like Merkel as we do enemies

We have no “friends”. Maybe not all are (currently) enemies, but they’re all potential enemies.

Of course, these days I worry more about my own government than I do fereners.

Dr. ZhivBlago on October 24, 2013 at 7:49 PM

Cheating on RWM can shorten your LIFE … and she don’t need “no stinkin’ Snowden”

PolAgnostic on October 24, 2013 at 7:43 PM

I was inviting AP into a Hero Status discussion. :)

–I couldn’t cheat on Sophie if I wanted to. She’s the only woman in the world. The idea of another woman makes me laugh. Though, if she dumps me, it will probably start making me cry. Now, get your butt back on topic. :)

Axe on October 24, 2013 at 7:52 PM

How many U.S. embassies contained CIA stations which were listening-in on the leaders of the countries in which they were located in 1996, 1986, 1976, 1966, etc?

Reno_Dave on October 24, 2013 at 7:54 PM

Is this a surprise. Intelligence services of all countries have been spying on each other since forever. Tell Merkel to get her own spy agencies up to snuff.

gerrym51 on October 24, 2013 at 7:55 PM

Hope and Change not as changey as first advertised.

Bishop on October 24, 2013 at 8:01 PM

And none of these victim-nations would ever consider listening in on the communications of others, right. There is a difference between intelligence and intelligent.

DAT60A3 on October 24, 2013 at 8:01 PM

OT: To begin Game 2, World Series, James Taylor and his guitar just put out one of the most unique and beautiful versions of the National Anthem ever.

M240H on October 24, 2013 at 8:02 PM

Now, get your butt back on topic. :)

Axe on October 24, 2013 at 7:52 PM

.
If I say, “Aye aye, sir!” can we count that as seconding and carrying my motion?

And then begin the pogrom against the liberals???

PolAgnostic on October 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM

Big losers: American telecom, internet, and software companies.

slickwillie2001 on October 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM

And then begin the pogrom against the liberals???

PolAgnostic on October 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM

lol — optimist.

Axe on October 24, 2013 at 8:13 PM

Today’s news has nothing to do with Snowden’s alleged goal of awakening Americans to violations of their civil liberties by the U.S. government, but that’s par for the course.

Of course it does Allah!

Snowden handed off data that has nothing do to with “awakening Americans to violations of their civil liberties by the U.S. Government.” He delivered the keys to the kingdom to China and Russia. He is a traitor.

He also made it awkward for diplomats. Merkel would be an idiot (which she isn’t) to think that her cell phone chats are private and secure. Every nation spys on every other nation- even allies. Jonathan Pollard ring a bell?

Happy Nomad on October 24, 2013 at 8:33 PM

OT: To begin Game 2, World Series, James Taylor and his guitar just put out one of the most unique and beautiful versions of the National Anthem ever.

M240H on October 24, 2013 at 8:02 PM

I’m not a big fan of “unique” versions of our national anthem. I’ll watch it before I say anything else but it really irritates me when “artists” mess with it to put their own spin it.

Happy Nomad on October 24, 2013 at 8:37 PM

How many U.S. embassies contained CIA stations which were listening-in on the leaders of the countries in which they were located in 1996, 1986, 1976, 1966, etc?

Reno_Dave on October 24, 2013 at 7:54 PM

Um….. all of them. Is this a trick question?

Happy Nomad on October 24, 2013 at 8:39 PM

Every nation spys on every other nation- even allies.

Happy Nomad on October 24, 2013 at 8:33 PM

Maybe you’re right, though I doubt it. But maybe Juba does spy on Papeete.

Christien on October 24, 2013 at 9:47 PM

The president wages war, conducts diplomacy negotiates economic treaties, imposes sanctions, and works to promote U.S. interests abroad.

As big a lie as I have ever heard.

VorDaj on October 24, 2013 at 9:53 PM

He delivered the keys to the kingdom to China and Russia.

Even Obama and his perverts at the NSA haven’t made a claim that red-faced absurd.

He is a traitor.

Happy Nomad on October 24, 2013 at 8:33 PM

Those who work for the anti-American abomination which should of right be called the N-Stasi-A are the traitors. The Founding Fathers, to a man, would find it utterly abhorrent and that Americans would put up with it even more abhorrent. They would find it worse, far worse, than King George.

VorDaj on October 24, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Is this a surprise to anyone? Alot of faux outrage over this for tv, but this is just simple intelligence gathering. Now, please direct your attention back to the implosion of Obamacare.

Ellis on October 24, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Snowden is not spying on my phone calls, emails and credit card statements, and anything else some sick twisted pervert can think of, treating me like a criminal serf who can never be proven innocent It’s the anti-American abomination National Spy Agency that’s doing that.

Either the NSA dies or America does.
“In the end, there can be only one”.
The NSA is as incompatible with America as is Islam and for many of the same reasons.

Snowden shouldn’t even be the issue here, only a footnote. When a government becomes so totalitarian that it sets to spying, and in mass and in great detail, on it’s own people like they were all subjects, if not criminals, it is not doing so on their behalf. Only the most mindless of sheeple could think so. The Stasi wasn’t in East German and the N-Stasi-A isn’t in America. And this is on top of the TSA/Gropestapo molesting little girls and grandmas at our airports and largely giving middle easterners a pass. I don’t think the federal government has stopped a single attack, and has caused quite a number (Fort Hood, Boston, Benghazi, Navy Shipyard, Mexican invaders who kill so many and most every day), with their gross willful dereliction. I don’t care how many times Herr Hussein Obama and other N-Stasi-A supporters and apologists and lackeys tell me that’s Holy Water they are spraying on my leg to keep me safe, I know that it’s something very different – and it smells to high Heaven. If there were justice in the world, Snowden would be living it up in the White House and Obama and his N-Stasi-A criminals would be in hiding, maybe somewhere in North Korea, in a dark cave. subsisting on grass.

The NSA and all it’s just following orders paid for employes can go straight to Hell.

VorDaj on October 24, 2013 at 10:12 PM

I’m not a big fan of “unique” versions of our national anthem. I’ll watch it before I say anything else but it really irritates me when “artists” mess with it to put their own spin it.

Happy Nomad on October 24, 2013 at 8:37 PM

With Americans tolerating, and some even cheering, the NSA all versions of the American National Anthem are no longer in touch with reality.

VorDaj on October 24, 2013 at 10:17 PM

To tolerate ObamaCare shows America is losing it’s mind; to tolerate the NSA shows America is losing it’s soul.

VorDaj on October 24, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Snowden is not spying on my phone calls, emails and credit card statements, and anything else some sick twisted pervert can think of, treating me like a criminal serf who can never be proven innocent It’s the anti-American abomination National Spy Agency that’s doing that.

Either the NSA dies or America does.
“In the end, there can be only one”.
The NSA is as incompatible with America as is Islam and for many of the same reasons.

Snowden shouldn’t even be the issue here, only a footnote. When a government becomes so totalitarian that it sets to spying, and in mass and in great detail, on it’s own people like they were all subjects, if not criminals, it is not doing so on their behalf. Only the most mindless of sheeple could think so. The Stasi wasn’t in East German and the N-Stasi-A isn’t in America. And this is on top of the TSA/Gropestapo molesting little girls and grandmas at our airports and largely giving middle easterners a pass. I don’t think the federal government has stopped a single attack, and has caused quite a number (Fort Hood, Boston, Benghazi, Navy Shipyard, Mexican invaders who kill so many and most every day), with their gross willful dereliction. I don’t care how many times Herr Hussein Obama and other N-Stasi-A supporters and apologists and lackeys tell me that’s Holy Water they are spraying on my leg to keep me safe, I know that it’s something very different – and it smells to high Heaven. If there were justice in the world, Snowden would be living it up in the White House and Obama and his N-Stasi-A criminals would be in hiding, maybe somewhere in North Korea, in a dark cave. subsisting on grass.

The NSA and all it’s just following orders paid for employes can go straight to Hell.

VorDaj on October 24, 2013 at 10:12 PM

This rant has it all. Well done.

lexhamfox on October 24, 2013 at 11:11 PM

That means damage to U.S./German relations and that has all sorts of bad consequences potentially. What’s the gain to Americans’ civil liberties from it?

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

whatcat on October 24, 2013 at 11:27 PM

Have fun living your new Russian life, Edward!

unclesmrgol on October 25, 2013 at 12:54 AM

So?

thebrokenrattle on October 25, 2013 at 9:38 AM