I guess it’s a good thing we released Jonathan Pollard last month, huh?
Of course, that gesture of good will might not be enough to make up for this embarrassing little revelation which hit the wires while I was out of town. Turns out that the NSA is still in business and collecting information from all over the planet. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Still, there are going to need to be some answers forthcoming when they’re spending less time keeping track of what Vladimir Putin is up to than keeping tabs on Bibi Netanyahu, not to mention our own members of Congress. (The Hill)
The U.S. captured communications from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides and swept up the content of private conversations with U.S. lawmakers, giving the Obama administration insight into Israel’s lobbying efforts against the international nuclear deal with Iran, according to a new report.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the National Security Agency (NSA) swept up information that White House officials considered valuable as it sought to counter Netanyahu’s vocal opposition to the nuclear deal between Iran, the U.S. and other world leaders.
Netanyahu reportedly remained a top priority for the snooping, according to the report, despite President Obama saying two years ago he would curb eavesdropping on allies.
Just in case it hasn’t been made clear through our many conversations here on the subject over the years, let’s start with a routine but necessary disclaimer. We spy on our friends and our friends spy on us. Nobody likes it very much, but it’s the way the world works. Everybody is out there spying on everybody else and when we catch one of our friends doing it we put on a big show of being outraged and toss somebody in jail. When we get caught, there are apologies offered (and the occasional arrest as well) and everyone gets a bit red in the face before going about their normal business.
This situation is something different though. I think most of us can understand how, in the “normal” course of events, world leaders would want to keep tabs on what’s going on around the planet, who is talking to who and what dangers might be lurking. But this bit of spying, at least according to the Wall Street Journal report, was done for a very specific and highly political purpose and there were only a few subjects singled out for special attention.
NSA snooping allegedly found Netanyahu and his aides leaked details of the negotiations gained through Israeli spying, coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal and asked those lawmakers who were undecided on the deal how it could get their vote, according to the report.
The Obama administration decided to shield leaders including French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other North Atlantic Treat Organization (NATO) heads from NSA snooping, according to the report, while it omitted some including Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
This wasn’t a case of our military being worried that somebody was cracking Israel’s nuclear codes or a fear that Bibi was about to strike Iran first on their own. (If that were the case we could pretty much forgive the transgression.) The Obama administration appears to have been engaged in some blatant politicking, using our intelligence agencies to further the President’s own goals in terms of selling the incredibly flawed nuclear deal to the public. Why else give a pass to France, Germany and the rest of NATO while picking out our strongest ally in one of the most troubled regions of the world for snooping? And capturing private conversations with members of Congress? As Paul at Powerline points out, there are clearly many questions to be answered.
Did the NSA inform the appropriate congressional committees when a lawmaker’s name was revealed to Team Obama in summaries of intercepted communications? It says that the names were removed before the information was passed on to the White House. It also claims to have removed “trash talk,” such as personal attacks on the executive branch.
Is all of this true? Who knows?
What’s clear is that President Obama’s determination to obtain a deal with the mullahs that neither our closest ally in the region (pre-Obama, anyway) nor the American people supported led him to treat Israel as, in effect, an adversary and knowingly to invade the privacy of American legislators and American citizens.
Are we going to be having some hearings over this next year to determine if somebody broke the law? Or will this wind up being yet another case where everyone mutters a few halfhearted apologies and shuffles off, pretending that none of this unpleasantness actually happened? This smells of a Nixonian enemies list, and the President of the United States should never be allowed to use either our military or our intelligence agencies as political tools to advance his own agenda. And don’t even get me started on the lack of in-depth analysis unfolding on cable news this week. They’re talking about the story, but not the implications, and that’s disgraceful.