The story about the NSA spying on the leaders of other governments is turning out to have legs and is causing some serious discomfort to the Obama administration. While governments and elites (including elite media) don’t care if the rights and privacy of ordinary people are trampled, they get up in arms if those of the elites are. This is why the story of the wiretapping of these national leaders is getting so much play. The suggestion that president Obama knew about the tapping of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone and her conversations is causing particularly acute discomfort.
Everyone is trying to distance themselves from this act. Even senator Diane Feinstein, one of the most stalwart defenders of the national security state and no friend at all of civil liberties, now says that spying on foreign leaders goes too far, though in her case, I think she is just going through the motions to avoid blame.
President Obama is also trying to distance himself from this fiasco by the usual tactic of suggesting that this was done by underlings and that he only learned about it in the summer and immediately ordered it to be stopped.
The White House claim that the tapping of Merkel’s and other leaders’ phones were done by underlings without Obama’s knowledge is just not plausible. These phones were not picked up incidentally as part of the NSA’s massive worldwide snooping set up and somebody suddenly noticed that Merkel’s phone was among them. Merkel’s phone was specifically targeted for snooping. Are we to believe that a lower-level official decided on their own initiative to tap the head of state of a close ally without clearing it with their superiors and that they did not ask for a decision at the highest levels? Some NSA officials are angry that Obama is trying to blame everything on them.
In addition, Obama has no credibility on this issue. His last shred of credibility was destroyed when his own Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was caught brazenly lying under oath and not only was he not prosecuted, Obama did not even ask for his resignation. He still has his job and was still invited to testify today on Capitol Hill along with fellow liar Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, amid signs that Congress might at last take some steps to curb these abuses.