By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
It seems that the National Security Agency (NSA), one of the largest US intelligence gathering organizations, may have been spying on foreign leaders. We’re not just talking garden variety peeping on evil terrorists either, but actual phone monitoring of our close allies, like France and Germany!
Brazil and Mexico were among the first countries to express concern over reports that the NSA may have spied on their presidents, and now the European Union is getting very feisty. They’ve begun summoning US ambassadors (our representatives in their countries) to explain why the NSA is checking out phone convos. Germany’s Chancellor (top leader), Angela Merkel, angrily asked President Barack Obama on Wednesday if her phone’s being tapped (listened to) by American intelligence.
Germany is no small fish in the pond, either, because it’s the most powerful economy in all of Europe.
So, when Merkel makes demands, Obama listens very closely. He tried putting her at ease, and the White House carefully explained, “The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitoring the communications of Chancellor Merkel.” Hmm, if you read between the lines, they’re not denying it’s happened in the past. They’re just saying it’s not going on right now, nor will it happen again in the future.
When pressed further, White House spokesman Jay Carney didn’t bother saying on Thursday whether the US had monitored her in the past. “We are not going to comment publicly on every specified, alleged intelligence activity,” he said, adding, “We have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.”
In case that seems like the US is just brushing off the problem, Carney also explained that at Obama’s direction, they’ll be “reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly balance the security concerns of our citizens and allies with the private concerns that all people share.”
See, this whole spying upset started with Edward Snowden, a low-level NSA employee who stole top secret US government information and started spilling the behind-the-scenes beans for all to see. Both American and international citizens grew concerned over revelations that the NSA was supposedly monitoring the phone records and possibly even the e-mails of just about everyone!
While the US has spied on phone calls for over a hundred years, and countries always snoop on each other, this was the first time an insider betrayed his country to unleash massive amounts of secrets. Eventually, Snowden fled to Russia, where he was granted asylum (protection), and now his whereabouts are unknown. The more recent drama has been stirred up by journalist Glenn Greenwald, who’s been showing off documents he claims to have received from Snowden. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that the actions of this ex-NSA employee have definitely damaged international relations for the US and embarrassed its intelligence organization.