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October 24, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Is it time for the Obama Administration to rein in the National Security Agency?

Michael Osbun/ Op Art

Michael Osbun/ Op Art

UPDATE: The Guardian is reporting that the National Security Agency monitored the calls of 35 world leaders. You read that correctly. The British newspaper, citing information obtained from a classified document provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, says NSA was able to do so after being given the phone numbers by other U.S. officials. An NSA memo obtained by the newspaper acknowledges the surveillance produced “little intelligence.”The Obama Administration’s inability to curb the NSA’s prolific spying on Americans, world leaders and citizens of other countries continues at the president’s peril. That should change given how embarrassed President Obama must be after being dressed down by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who discovered American surveillance may have included her cellphone.

This New York Times story provides details and important context about growing tensions among countries that routinely spy on each other. With more revelations to come from former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden’s cache of documents, the diplomatic fallout from U.S. intelligence gathering will continue to roil around the globe. That is unless Congress and the White House wake up and get involved, as this Seattle Times editorial urges.

Distrust of the U.S. both domestically and abroad grows along with revelations about the NSA tapping into foreign citizens’ phone calls and e-mail traffic as well as the communications of Americans. I asked my colleague Bruce Ramsey whether the latest revelations ought to be the nail in the coffin for NSA’s routine and unfettered intelligence gathering operations. In regard to foreign intelligence gathering, he responded that it would depend on the quality of intel being gathered. And so it goes.

In a recent Op-ed, syndicated columnist Froma Harrop wrote that privacy is gone, another quaint relic relegated to the past. Indeed, technology has made it relatively easy for countries to spy on each other, whether friend or foe. But isn’t it time for Obama to make the NSA heel and for the U.S. to stop spying on its citizens and allies?

Comments | Topics: Edward Snowden, France, Germany


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