Reports in Le Monde and El Mundo alleging broad NSA surveillance of French and Spanish citizens didn’t come out of thin air, but rather were a product of Edward Snowden’s leaks. The documents associated with those stories were also published alongside the reports.
So once again the cat is out of the bag, and once again the NSA is scrambling to issue blanket denials, insisting that the documents were “misinterpreted,” and that the claims of NSA surveillance of the nations was “completely false.” NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander went on to insist that just because documents say something happened doesn’t mean it did, and that only the NSA could really understand what they’re looking at.
Or at least a little false. While Alexander denied anything and everything, his boss the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a much more tepid statement insisting that all surveillance conducted was legal and for “valid foreign intelligence purposes.”
The big scandals of the leak surrounded tapping the leaders of allied nations, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and while some officials issue on-again, off-again denials of that as well, Clapper was likewise unapologetic, insisting that “it’s invaluable to us to know where countries are coming from.”
Clapper faced intense questioning from the House Intelligence Committee over the fact that such surveillance violated legal obligations to keep the committee informed, and though Clapper didn’t dispute that Congress wasn’t told, he simply insisted that in the future “I guess we could discuss” whether or not such disclosures were necessary, but he believed that not telling Congress “lived up to the letter and spirit of the requirement.”
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