Nightly News   |  October 29, 2013

NSA under fire for spying on US allies

What is infuriating Europe the most is that the US eavesdropped on allies – but what the administration will not explain is how President Obama didn’t know. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> has been spying on friends and allies, including foreign leaders themselves for many years now. today, top u.s. intelligence officials defended their operations and said in effect, everybody is doing it. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell has more.

>> reporter: from the moment they walked in, the intelligence chiefs were confronted by protesters about their spying on angela merkel and others. but american spy agencies were not apologizing to anyone, claiming that all countries spy.

>> some of this reminds me of the movie, casablanca, my god, there is gambling going on here, this is the same thing.

>> do you think they have conducted an espionage effort against the other intelligence leaders, or otherwise?

>> absolutely.

>> reporter: they also strongly denied spying on phone records in france and spain. what is angering europe is the spying on the allies, france, germany and brazil, more than 30 leaders in all. an invasion of privacy that the u.s. has not denied. what the administration will not explain is how president obama did not know, as the white house claims.

>> if the president didn't know he certainly should have known. one would think that if he didn't know he would have demanded the resignation of those who should have briefed him.

>> reporter: current and former officials say obama may not have known about merkel but would know that the nsa spied on fortune leaders, including friends.

>> the president and his national security council would be well aware of the types of targets the nsa was targeting, that could include allies in europe.

>> reporter: east germany , famous for spying on its citizens, but being spied on by the u.s.?

>> i think this will be a tough problem for the american/german relations for the next years.

>> reporter: the white house is already taking steps to curb the way america collects the mass phone records, especially here at home. that in the face of growing criticism that america's spy agencies have gone rogue. brian?

>> andrea mitchell for us in the state department , thank you.