Obama To Allied Leaders: I'll Call if I Want To Know What You're Thinking


Credit:Official White House Photo by Pete Souza/wikimedia

Today, President Obama gave his much-anticipated speech on NSA reforms.

Unsurprisingly, Obama mentioned the spying on foreign leaders

From the speech:

Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas and focus on America's approach to intelligence collection abroad. As I've indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection. Our capabilities help protect not only our nation but our friends and our allies as well.

But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too. And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue I'll pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance.

Obama went on to say, 

The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.

This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I've 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.

These statements may come as a surprise to German Chancellor Angela Merkel considering that Obama reportedly approved the tapping of her phone. Is there a reason Obama didn't feel like he could "pick up the phone" to speak to her before Snowden's revelations were published? Unsurprisingly, the revelations relating to American snooping on German officials have soured U.S.-German relationship worse than the most recent war in Iraq did.  

More from Reason.com on the NSA here