Kerry, Alexander pointing fingers over spying on foreign leaders

posted at 1:01 pm on November 2, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The dispute over American surveillance of foreign leaders took a sharp inward turn yesterday, as key figures in the Obama administration pointed fingers at each other over the NSA’s activities.  Secretary of State John Kerry got the ball rolling by telling a UK audience that the NSA had gone “too far” and that the White House would rein in its intelligence agencies in the future:

“The president and I have learned of some things that have been happening in many ways on an automatic pilot, because the technology is there and the ability is there,” Kerry said.

“In some cases, some of these actions have reached too far and we are going to try to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

He was quick to defend the US intelligence services for their efforts, however, arguing their motivation was clear.

“We have actually prevented airplanes from going down, buildings from being blown up, and people from being assassinated because we’ve been able to learn ahead of time of the plans,” Kerry added.

“I assure you, innocent people are not being abused in this process, but there’s an effort to try to gather information. And yes, in some cases, it has reached too far inappropriately.”

He said president Barack Obama was conducting a “thorough review” which would ensure that the “sense of abuse” would not continue in the future.

NSA chief Keith Alexander responded with an immediate rebuke, claiming that the NSA didn’t just decide to target foreign leaders on its own.  Instead, Alexander made clear that he and his agency had been specifically tasked to do so — by the Obama administration:

The director of the National Security Agency has blamed US diplomats for requests to place foreign leaders under surveillance, in a surprising intervention that risks a confrontation with the State Department.

General Keith Alexander made the remarks during a pointed exchange with a former US ambassador to Romania, lending more evidence to suggestions of a rift over surveillance between the intelligence community and Barack Obama’s administration. …

Alexander replied: “That is a great question, in fact as an ambassador you have part of the answer. Because we the intelligence agencies don’t come up with the requirements. The policymakers come up with the requirements.”

He went on: “One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh: ambassadors.”

Alexander said the NSA collected information when it was asked by policy officials to discover the “leadership intentions” of foreign countries. “If you want to know leadership intentions, these are the issues,” the NSA director said.

The State Department declined to respond to Alexander’s assertion:

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.

This was the most public response yet to the White House’s claim to know nothing about espionage on foreign leaders.  Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times got an earful from the intelligence community pushing back on Barack Obama’s supposed ignorance of the program.  “Certainly the National Security Council and senior people across the intelligence community knew exactly what was going on,” one source said, “and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.” The only way Obama could have failed to know about the program, other sources told the LA Times, was if he didn’t bother to ever read his briefing books.

This shot from Alexander is different.  It’s on the record, for one, but also it turns the Obama administration from being a passive recipient of these intel streams into being an active quarterback in their operation.  It’s yet another instance in which a threadbare cover story has been blown apart for the White House, this time from within.

By the way, let’s not forget that John Kerry is just a recent arrival.  If Alexander was being driven to supply this data by “the policymakers” and “ambassadors,” then perhaps Hillary Clinton has a few questions to answer as well on this point.

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it turns the Obama administration from being a passive recipient of these intel streams into being an active quarterback in their operation.

Oh they’ve been active awright…

Obama’s Military Coup Purges 197 Officers In Five Years

I dunno where 0b00ba finds time for all this schemin’, what with all the golf and all.

Akzed on November 2, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Thank you Mr. Snowden, for exposing all the charlatans of the world.

Consider this, you fools… Track them….and the WH.

You missed Boston and Hassan, and so much more. You are, however, busy with blackmailing Petraeus and Roberts, you swine.

Schadenfreude on November 2, 2013 at 1:18 PM

It’s yet another instance in which a threadbare cover story has been blown apart for the White House, this time from within.

It’s the usual White House BULLSHIT!

Having worked for a ‘super-secret agency’ in the late 60′s, monitoring only military channels gives you an idea of capabilities, it doesn’t tell you want the opposition leaders are thinking. When you can get a direct line to the leaders, that info goes straight to the top. AND THE SOURCE IS IDENTIFIED.

Evidently King Barack is unclear on the concept of ‘PLAUSIBLE denyability’.

GarandFan on November 2, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Thank you Mr. Snowden, for exposing all the charlatans of the world.

Consider this, you fools… Track them….and the WH.

You missed Boston and Hassan, and so much more. You are, however, busy with blackmailing Petraeus and Roberts, you swine.

Schadenfreude on November 2, 2013 at 1:18 PM

…there you go!

KOOLAID2 on November 2, 2013 at 1:26 PM

If Alexander was being driven to supply this data by “the policymakers” and “ambassadors,” then perhaps Hillary Clinton has a few questions to answer as well on this point.

Let’s hold off asking these questions for another year or so, when the answers will do the country some good.

RoadRunner on November 2, 2013 at 1:28 PM

Alexander probably has access to info that could bring down the administration…

d1carter on November 2, 2013 at 1:29 PM

“We have actually prevented airplanes from going down, buildings from being blown up, and people from being assassinated because we’ve been able to learn ahead of time of the plans,” Kerry added.

Why the long face, Thurston?

Oh, that’s right-you are too stupid to forget that you regularly blasted Chimpy Bush’s terror alerts, and said he had made the world “less safe”. You also directly accused him of issuing those alerts solely for political benefit.

F-

Del Dolemonte on November 2, 2013 at 1:38 PM

“We have actually prevented airplanes from going down, buildings from being blown up, and people from being assassinated because we’ve been able to learn ahead of time of the plans,” Kerry added.

Why the long face, Thurston?

Oh, that’s right-you are too stupid to forget remember that you regularly blasted Chimpy Bush’s terror alerts, and said he had made the world “less safe”. You also directly accused him of issuing those alerts solely for political benefit.

F-

Del Dolemonte on November 2, 2013 at 1:38 PM

FIFM.

F-

Del Dolemonte on November 2, 2013 at 1:40 PM

If you like your secrets, you can keep your secrets

BobMbx on November 2, 2013 at 1:43 PM

…more purging… is awaiting!

KOOLAID2 on November 2, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Of course we spy on foreign leaders, and they on us!

The reason this is so big is that the Euros recognize Obama is so weak they can walk all over him and score points. Same for the NSA and CIA and military. And I applaud their efforts!

PattyJ on November 2, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Good luck getting answers from Hillary.

Hillary’s bumped her head again, and is recuperating in (

checks map for country on other side of the world

)….Papua New Guinea.

aquaviva on November 2, 2013 at 1:55 PM

OT–

“Unfortunately al-Qaeda has still been active and has grown more active recently,” Obama said at the end of a nearly two-hour meeting.

What a failure.

CWchangedhisNicagain on November 2, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Never once has the German media asked the German government if they spy on the US government and Obama’s phone….

albill on November 2, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Merkel knows.

It’s not that they all spy.

It’s that obama, the incredible fool, got himself into the wonderful pickle of being exposed.

Thank you Mr. Snowden.

You showed the nakid fool in Armani what the stupid world was cheering for.

Schadenfreude pure!!!

Schadenfreude on November 2, 2013 at 2:09 PM

The only way Obama could have failed to know about the program, other sources told the LA Times, was if he didn’t bother to ever read his briefing books.

Therein lies the crux of the matter.

onlineanalyst on November 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Trust nothing that Obysmal or his current self-aggrandizing, diplo-speaking, pompous lackey Kerry say.

onlineanalyst on November 2, 2013 at 2:33 PM

I dunno where 0b00ba finds time for all this schemin’, what with all the golf and all.

Akzed on November 2, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Obysmal “delegates” the dirty work with six-degrees of separation so that he can claim plausible deniability. You know: so it is decreed by Tut, so it is done.

onlineanalyst on November 2, 2013 at 2:36 PM

Obama can’t take responsibility for anything.

They only got a dog so he could blame it for his farts.

Adjoran on November 2, 2013 at 2:51 PM

The direction in which the fingers are pointing, the final responsibility for spying on foreign leaders could well end up with…… the foreign leaders. LOL. Maybe Merkel wanted to know her own “leadership intentions”. What can I say, God bless the government of USA.

CoolAir on November 2, 2013 at 3:57 PM

Obama can’t take responsibility for anything.

They only got a dog so he could blame it for his farts.

Adjoran on November 2, 2013 at 2:51 PM

ROTFLMAO and wiping tears of laughter.

katy the mean old lady on November 2, 2013 at 4:21 PM

Obama has a pee-pee this big…

rgranger on November 2, 2013 at 7:40 PM

The way things are supposed to work is that we’re supposed to know virtually everything about what they [the government] do: that’s why they’re called public servants. They’re supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that’s why we’re called private individuals.

roflmmfao

donabernathy on November 2, 2013 at 9:58 PM

“The president and I have learned of some things that have been happening in many ways on an automatic pilot, because the technology is there and the ability is there,” Kerry said.

“In some cases, some of these actions have reached too far and we are going to try to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

This is chillingly like the response President Bennett gave Jack Ryan in “Clear and Present Danger” When Ryan confronts the president with the evidence of his involvement in the operation in Columbia.

tpitman on November 3, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Never once has the German media asked the German government if they spy on the US government and Obama’s phone….

albill on November 2, 2013 at 2:02 PM

No doubt they spy too (every foreign state does), but what would be the point for their media to ask this question, their official channels wills deny everything…until a German version of Snowden defects and spills the beans, they will deny it until the kingdom comes…

jimver on November 3, 2013 at 12:37 PM

The director of the National Security Agency has blamed US diplomats for requests to place foreign leaders under surveillance, in a surprising intervention that risks a confrontation with the State Department.

Hillary.

Kerry’s been SOS for less than a year.

claudius on November 4, 2013 at 7:52 AM