As reported in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Tuesday night, the United States National Security Agency (NSA) continued its surveillance of its allies - despite President Obama’s promise made two years ago to stop the practice.
Obama’s pledge to the governments of his allies came after Edward Snowden illegally leaked information about the NSA’s surveillance practices to the rest of the world. However, in the latest claims of eavesdropping, the WSJ reports that the NSA continued surveillance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. Also, the surveillance may have captured the private conversations by members of Congress.
According to the anonymous U.S. officials who talked with the WSJ, the reason that the NSA continued - and even increased - its surveillance of Netanyahu was a fear that he planned to “strike Iran without warning.” However, by 2013, that fear seemed to pass, but there was a new interest to continue surveillance: the negotiations of the Iran nuclear deal. Apparently, U.S. officials believed the Israelis were spying on the negotiations in an effort to squash the deal.
As a result of its investigation, the WSJ reports that conversations between Israeli officials confirmed that Israel had knowledge of the U.S.-Iran discussions, as well as plans to prevent a deal from taking place. When Netanyahu came to the U.S. to meet with certain members of Congress, the NSA recorded those conversations.
Officials told the WSJ that those very conversations intercepted by the NSA raised fears “that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.” Nevertheless, the Obama administration sought the information anyways because it “believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu's campaign.”
To cover its tracks, the White House delegated the assignment to the NSA to determine what exactly to share, and the NSA did just that, redacting names of Congressional members and any personal attacks on Obama.
National Security Council Spokesman Ned Price would not comment on the WSJ’s report but he said in a statement that, “[W]e do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike.”
He further added that the U.S. support and commitment to Israel’s security is “sacrosanct” and “backed by concrete actions that demonstrate the depth of U.S. support for Israel.”
Despite the Obama administration’s claims that the report is nonsense, many are skeptical. The office of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that they are looking into the allegations.