Leaked documents showed the NSA tracked the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.
The White House stayed silent Friday on a demand by French and German leaders to seek a "no-spying" pledge by the end of the year after leaked documents showed the NSA tracked the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.
The fallout from the classified documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden continued to rock U.S. diplomatic relations this week as German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the U.S. of tapping her cell phone after she saw the number written on U.S. documents.
Earlier this week, the French newspaper Le Monde reported that the NSA culled more than 70 million phone records of French citizens over 30 days.
President Obama spoke by phone with both leaders this week. “The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel” according to a White House readout of the call. The statement did not account for past actions, nor did White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in Thursday’s daily briefing.
“Some [of the recent disclosures] have distorted our activities and some… raise legitimate questions for our friends and allies about how these capabilities are employed,” the White House said in a call readout of Obama's phone conversation with French President Francois Hollande.
A senior administration official told NBC News Friday that the U.S. is “committed to engaging bilaterally with both countries specifically about these issues,” but did not comment on the French and German demands.
The assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism Lisa Monaco defended the U.S. surveillance activities in a USA Today op-ed Friday: “We want to ensure that we are collecting information because we need it and not just because we can.” According to Monaco, a review group and oversight board have been crated “to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are appropriately protected.”
A report published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper Thursday revealed that the U.S. monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders, heightening tensions over the U.S. spying program, which earlier this year caused a standoff with the leaders of Mexico and Brazil.
According to the classified document dated October 2006 and leaked by Snowden, the NSA requested officials in the White House, State Department, and Pentagon share their rolodexes so that the intelligence agency could widen its surveillance reach. One unnamed U.S. official shared 200 numbers, including those of 35 world leaders, according to the document.
The news dominated day one of the European Council summit in Brussels Thursday.
Hollande and Merkel announced in a joint appearance that "we will start discussing the matter with the Americans in order to agree upon a common framework, that will be done by the end of the year, and the other Europeans who would like to join us will be welcome."
"To be more specific, we will make sure that between the various services, we can not only clarify what happened in the past, but we can agree upon rules for the future.," Hollande said.