One of the much-vaunted reforms of President Obama’s NSA speech was to end surveillance on foreign leaders. The announcement was touted as a major shift across the media, but like most things which involve today’s speech, it misses the huge caveats which reveal that the change won’t be a change at all.
The exact pledge was “I have 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.”
The caveat, and it’s an easy one to spot because it’s got dashes surround it, essentially negates the whole of the promise, as the rest of Obama’s speech centered around the idea that literally no real abuses are happening, and that all the surveillance going on was for compelling reasons.
A whole second caveat was thrown in at the end, saying it only applies to “close friends and allies,” which would allow future presidents to pick and choose which excuse they have for spying, whether a foreign leader is not a really “close” friend, or whether there was a “compelling” need, or both.