Has U.S. stopped all spying on allies? A top official says no

Olivier Knox
Yahoo News
An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland
An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. REUTERS/NSA/Handout via Reuters

A senior U.S. official late Monday disputed Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s assertion that the United States has stopped all spying on allies.

Amid a global uproar over American surveillance activities, Feinstein, D-Calif., had announced earlier that “the White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, in a statement emailed to reporters, said the White House worked closely with Feinstein but would not confirm the senator’s assertion. “I’m not going to go into the details of those private discussions, nor am I going to comment on assertions made in the Senator’s statement today about U.S. foreign intelligence activities,” Hayden said.

A senior administration official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, later told Yahoo News that Feinstein’s claim was “not accurate.” The official said there had been “some individual changes” to the policy, “we have not made across-the-board policy changes” like “terminating intelligence collection that might be aimed at allies.”

Leaders in Germany, France, Mexico, Spain, Brazil and other friendly countries have complained loudly about revelations that the United States spy agencies targeted their citizens and leaders. The White House has said in recent days that the United States "will not" spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Feinstein said in her statement that she is “totally opposed” to the National Security Agency collecting intelligence on allied leaders — and vowed that her committee would “initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs.”

“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. “The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.”