NSA chief Keith Alexander blames diplomats for surveillance requests
Paul Lewis, The Guardian
Thursday 31 October 2013 22.16 EDT
The director of the National Security Agency has blamed US diplomats for requests to place foreign leaders under surveillance, in a surprising intervention that risks a confrontation with the State Department.
General Keith Alexander made the remarks during a pointed exchange with a former US ambassador to Romania, lending more evidence to suggestions of a rift over surveillance between the intelligence community and Barack Obama’s administration.
The NSA chief was challenged by James Carew Rosapepe, who served as an ambassador under the Clinton administration, over the monitoring of the German chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.
Rosapepe, now a Democratic state senator in Maryland, pressed Alexander to give “a national security justification” for the agency’s use of surveillance tools intended for combating terrorism against “democratically elected leaders and private businesses”.
“We all joke that everyone is spying on everyone,” he said. “But that is not a national security justification.”
Alexander replied: “That is a great question, in fact as an ambassador you have part of the answer. Because we the intelligence agencies don’t come up with the requirements. The policymakers come up with the requirements.”
He went on: “One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh: ambassadors.”
It also risked deepening the division between the Obama administration and the intelligence community, which have been briefing against one another throughout the week
Just hours earlier, secretary of state John Kerry appeared to lay the blame at the door of the NSA, when he said certain practices had occurred “on autopilot” without the knowledge of senior officials in the Obama administration.