Some of those programs, including the collection of e-mails and other communications from overseas, had already been disclosed because of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. But Obama was also informed of at least one program whose scope surprised him: “head of state collection.”
That program, whose targets included the communications of U.S. allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, began in 2002, according to administration officials. Obama never knew that the program targeted American allies, officials said, adding that he was aware of collection efforts aimed at leaders of “adversarial countries.”
Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe still-classified activities in general terms, declined to outline the scope of the “head of state” collection program. They added that although Obama ordered the curtailing of some of the program and informed Merkel that the United States was not currently monitoring her calls, he was not angered that intelligence officials had not told him sooner about the extent of the eavesdropping.
“Their job is to get as much information for policymakers as possible,” a senior administration official said.