President Obama laid out his new intelligence policy Friday at the Department of Justice where he defended the practices of the National Security Agency while also announcing the end of storing phone records of U.S. citizens.
What he didn’t do was apologize for U.S. intelligence agencies spying on foreign government leaders. The leaders of notable U.S. government allies to include Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff have criticized the U.S. when it was uncovered that U.S. intelligence agencies had collected intelligence on them and their governments.
Like much of the information recently discovered about NSA’s collection practices, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released data that connected the U.S. to spying on the world leaders. Rousseff said before the U.N. General Assembly that this sort of surveillance was “a breach of international law.”
Obama said he has made clear to the intelligence community that “unless there is a compelling national security purpose — we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.”
That doesn’t mean the U.S. will not continue to collect information to gauge “the intentions of governments,” since that is something all governments do.
“We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective. But heads of state and government with whom we work closely, and on whose cooperation we depend, should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners. The changes I’ve ordered do just that,” Obama said.
However, Obama did acknowledge the harm it has done to certain diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and some countries.
“I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward,” Obama said.
The president went on to say that he would much rather just pick up the phone than tap the phone lines to foreign heads of state.
“And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to learn what they think about an issue, I will pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.”