|Cornered over cloak and dagger work, US reviews snooping
US President Barack Obama said he would seek to keep US intelligence-gathering operations in check amid mounting European anger over American snooping on the continent.
As Spain summoned the US ambassador to denounce the mass eavesdropping, the normally loyal head of the US Senate intelligence committee claimed her panel had been kept in the dark.
Washington stands accused of snooping on the telephone and online communications of millions of ordinary citizens in Europe, including world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Obama refused to corroborate such reports, citing the need to keep intelligence operations classified, but he acknowledged that the way US agencies go about their business was being reassessed.
“We give them policy direction,'' he told ABC News.
“But what we've seen over the last several years is their capacities continue to develop and expand, and that's why I'm initiating now a review to make sure that what they're able to do doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing.''
Senator Dianne Feinstein, said lawmakers on her committee had not been briefed on the extent of National Security Agency activity and announced a “major review'' of spy operations.
“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies – including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany – let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,'' Feinstein said.
“It is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed,'' she added.
Feinstein, a member of Obama's Democratic Party who defended the NSA in the recent past, did not disguise her opposition to those policies that have led to a deterioration in transatlantic ties.
“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers,'' she said.