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Obama Didn’t Know About NSA Spying On Foreign Leaders?

NSA headquarter

With the United States still dealing with the blowback coming from the revelation that the National Security Agency had been monitoring the communications of as many as 35 foreign leaders, including such stalwart U.S. allies as German Chancellor Chancellor Angela Merkel, The Wall Street Journal is out with a report that the President was completely unaware of the program until it was revealed by a White House review this summer:

WASHINGTON—The National Security Agency ended a program used to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a number of other world leaders after an internal Obama administration review started this summer revealed to the White House the existence of the operation, U.S. officials said.

Officials said the internal review turned up NSA monitoring of some 35 world leaders, in the U.S. government’s first public acknowledgment that it tapped the phones of world leaders. European leaders have joined international outrage over revelations of U.S. surveillance of Ms. Merkel’s phone and of NSA’s monitoring of telephone call data in France.

The White House cut off some monitoring programs after learning of them, including the one tracking Ms. Merkel and some other world leaders, a senior U.S. official said. Other programs have been slated for termination but haven’t been phased out completely yet, officials said.

The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them.

They added that the president was briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection “priorities,” but that those below him make decisions about specific intelligence targets.

The senior U.S. official said that the current practice has been for these types of surveillance decisions to be made at the agency level. “These decisions are made at NSA,” the official said. “The president doesn’t sign off on this stuff.” That protocol now is under review, the official added.

One would certainly think that it would be.

Realistically, of course, one does not expect the President of the United States to be personally aware of, or to have personally authorized, every single person under investigation by the NSA, the CIA, or any other Federal intelligence or law enforcement agency. For one thing, that’s a level of detail that is simply too specific for his position; it would be like the CEO of General Motors being personally involved in the negotiations over which subcontractor will be used to provide a certain part on a new model the company is developing. By definition, the very nature of being a Chief Executive, whether in a governmental or private capacity, means that certain matters are delegated to those below you who will be making decisions within the boundaries that you set forth (and in the case of the government, hopefully, the law). A system where the President has to be bothered with the minute details of every individual intelligence agency would quite simply be unworkable.  So, on a broad level, it’s not surprising that the President might not know the specific details of every single thing the NSA is doing.

At the same time, though, the thought occurs that there are some intelligence and law enforcement investigations that ought to be at least known to a Chief Executive, and possibly even authorized by him in advance. Specifically, it would seem that those that carry with them the possibility of significant diplomatic or political ramifications would fall into that category. Monitoring the communications of a foreign leader, most especially the leader of a putative ally, strikes me as being far more serious in that regard than, say, monitoring the communications of someone suspected of having ties to a terrorist organization. If the NSA is going to monitor Angela Merkel’s phone calls, which it had apparently been doing since 2002 according to some reports, then shouldn’t the President know about this, perhaps so it can be discussed with those responsible for making such decisions whether or not this is a wise or necessary thing to do given the potential diplomatic consequences? While I’m admittedly not an expert in the spying field, the answer seems axiomatic to me and the idea that the President didn’t know about this, even on some abstract level, is rather disturbing.

There’s a broader question here, of course, that goes far beyond this one report and touches upon the question of how much discretion agencies like the NSA ought to have without being subjected to review by political officials. There would seem to be a reasonable line somewhere between a world where the White House has to sign off on every NSA surveillance target and one where the NSA essentially does whatever it wants without having to justify its actions to anyone. At the moment, it seems quite clear that we have strayed far too much into that second world.

Update: As suggested in the comments, it is possible, of course that this report is merely an attempt to provide the President with some plausible deniability when dealing with foreign leaders. If that’s the case, one wonders if the leaders would actually believe his assertion of ignorance.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Just Me says:

    I think it looks pretty bad if this has been happening for 5 years under his watch and he does have a clue. Then again with all the things various agencies have done under his watch that he didn’t know about if pretty much paints a picture of a disinterested administrator so perhaps he didn’t know.

    But I would think a spying program set up to spy on allies is something a president would be aware if even if he didn’t receive every detail of that spying.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 10

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    There would seem to be a reasonable line somewhere between a world where the White House has to sign off on every NSA surveillance target and one where the NSA essentially does whatever it wants without having to justify its actions to anyone.

    Assuming that the report is true (and I want more than unnamed officials for confirmation), it would seem that the NSA is the text book definition of an ‘out-of-control agency’.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 3

  3. JKB says:

    It is an odd argument they have. The president has sole responsibility for foreign relations (with consultation with the Senate) but he doesn’t seek to establish controls on what the spy agencies do that might undermine his work on foreign relations?

    Did Obama even know or try to know that the NSA thought they had the right to eavesdrop on the leaders of close allies? Seems to any President would want to set the management controls on this sort of thing. President to intel community: These leaders you spy on, these you can spy on if deemed warranted, these you may spy on but I must be informed when you do, these you need my prior written authorization to spy on.

    Who is in charge of this administration any way? Or should we say mis-administration.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 14

  4. Gavrilo says:

    Maybe the German government should get its act together and get the Chancellor a secure phone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  5. legion says:

    @JKB: Of course, if these kinds of wiretaps have been going on since 2002, as other “unnamed officials” have intimated, that means they were actually given permission – explicit or implicit – by the previous tenant of the Oval Office, Dick Cheney.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Bugging heads of government and heads of state without the president knowing about it? It’s either plausible deniability (which is no excuse), a lie, or some subordinates who should be fired.

    This is such a weak retort I think the White House would be much better off sticking to the “everybody does it” defense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  7. legion says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yeah, whether the President knew or not is the headline, but the more interesting story is that active senior NSA officials are throwing the President under the bus – and that’s _never_ supposed to happen in _any_ agency. If it’s a choice between making your agency look bad and making POTUS look bad, you _always_ fall on your own sword. Period. That’s how gov’t service works, regardless of the truth or the parties involved. Even during the dark days of the post-Iraq fiasco, when everyone knew Cheney had told the CIA what to report on WMDs, the CIA guys largely kept mum about what really went on. The people talking now are violating one of the truly sacred unwritten laws of the Beltway, and I’m curious about the blowback within their own community…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4

  8. mattbernius says:

    On has to wonder to what degree the powers-that-be at the NSA intentionally *omitted* information about these surveillance efforts in order to keep them going.

    As has been pointed out, once an organization gets a new power, they are typically reluctant to give it up. Picture yourself as an NSA official who believes that this type of spying is critical to US interests. A new president is elected who appears — based on his campaign positions and policy statements — to be interested in reigning in the security state. Do you go to him for re-approval, or since you already have prior-presidential approval, do you just keep the program going (burying information about it in other programs)?

    Again, this is what happens in bureaucracies of all types (including corporations). The skills that lead to success include the ability to navigate the system in such a way to hide just about anything you want to — often in plain sight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  9. Scott says:

    I would think every government would expect other government to spy on them and not be surprised. Even allies. I think this is one of those “Shocked, Shocked” situations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just Me: You would also think a President would know about a covert operation selling weapons to an enemy of ours and using the profits to arm an insurgency that you had been specifically prohibited from doing so by law, wouldn’t you?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  11. beth says:

    @mattbernius: And how does the conversation asking permission go?

    NSA: We’d like approval to wiretap the cellphone of the German Chancellor.

    President: But then that means they would think it’s okay to tap my phone!

    NSA: Well, yeah,,,but…

    It’s always different when all these abstract concepts like enhanced interrogation and wireless wiretapping apply to yourself, isn’t it? I can easily see how the NSA would want to keep this program quiet in order to save it (not that I agree with it).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  12. jo6pac says:

    WOW another out of the loop potus, I’m not sure but I think this a repeat of 0 hero ronnie-ray-gunn and that other fine potus gwb the sr. It’s just business as usual in the beltway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  13. al-Ameda says:

    This is all so SHOCKING.
    Spying is going on, even on our allies? I just can’t believe it.
    Spare me the kabuki, please.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  14. Just Me says:

    I arm do you really believe Reagan was unaware? I don’t and never did-he had willing fall guys but Indont for a minute believe he was completely unaware.

    I also don’t think the fact that this began in the previous administration is much of an excuse for being unaware (well I actually don’t believe Obama was unaware-I believe he thinks the American people will swallow that lie and the media will help him promote it).

    Obama has a lot of rogue agencies on his watch. That tells me if he truly is completely unaware of these things he is a very disinterested president. The IRS, Justice Department, NSA and EPA have all had some smarmy, unethical and possibly illegal things (IRS and EPA have both had high level employees create and use fake/unsecure email accounts to avoid oversight)happen while under his watch-and Obama is unaware of any of them? They’re part of the executive-he might want to exercise more control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott: Shades of Jonathon Pollard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. anjin-san says:

    It’s funny, back around 2002-03 when the previous administration was busy granting the federal government more or less unlimited power, Republican asked Democrats why they hated American when we questioned the direction we were headed in. To question the “unitary executive” was akin to treason.

    How times change.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

  17. C. Clavin says:

    Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
    Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
    [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
    Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
    Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
    [aloud]
    Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Ron Beasley says:

    As someone who has worked in intelligence there is a tendency to go rouge and they often have utter disdain for the civilian leadership. This becomes very prevalent in supper secret organizations like the NSA and the CIA. I really don’t know how to remedy this but we need to find away. Keep in mind many if not most of our current foreign policy problems in the world are the result of blowback from CIA operations since the end of WWII. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the BND (German Intelligence Service) was aware of and in fact encouraged the monitoring of Merkel’s phone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  19. george says:

    @legion:

    Of course, if these kinds of wiretaps have been going on since 2002, as other “unnamed officials” have intimated, that means they were actually given permission – explicit or implicit – by the previous tenant of the Oval Office, Dick Cheney.

    Though in fairness, the previous tenants could make the same argument that they were unaware as well – I think the gist of the “unaware” argument is that spying is a detail too small for a President to be informed about, and that would apply to Bush/Cheney (and Clinton before him, and Bush Sr before him, and Reagan before that etc).

    And actually, I tend to believe it – I just can’t see national leaders getting involved with that kind of detail. If nothing else, I think every major country has been spying on every other major country for the last five centuries (and in many cases longer).

    If historical nations constantly (no one minds admitting that now that everyone involved is long – often centuries – dead), why would anyone assume that current ones aren’t?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  20. grumpy realist says:

    What frosts me is that supposedly President Obama knew about this in 2010? Had I been president, I would have immediately informed my allies of the behavior, loudly and publicly denounced these weasels at the NSA, and put the fear of God into them so that they would never do anything like this again.

    As they say, it’s not the crime; it’s the cover-up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  21. mattbernius says:

    @george:

    And actually, I tend to believe it – I just can’t see national leaders getting involved with that kind of detail. If nothing else, I think every major country has been spying on every other major country for the last five centuries (and in many cases longer).

    To @Ron Beasley and others notes, much of these issues, often come back to the distributed powers of the bureaucratic form and the necessary division of labor and power therein. That’s before we even get to plausible deniability and other such issues.

    That doesn’t mean, to Dave S’s point, that people shouldn’t be fired (as in the case with some of the other boneheaded moves at other agencies).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    As someone who has worked in intelligence there is a tendency to go rouge

    Why do I have visions of red cheeked spies in full drag? ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  23. rudderpedals says:

    1. It would be irresponsible not to tap those conversations. Reopening those channels is going to be more difficult.

    Clearly Snowden’s earned a trial leading to a life imprisonment. The damage is immense.

    2. Hopefully the President knows about the taps. Clearly he’s smart enough to deny knowing about them whether or not he knew. It’s a dopey issue to press.

    3. Again there’s this weird attempt to impose “American rules” on the world of international diplomacy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  24. Ron Beasley says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oops! The spell checker doesn’t really work when the wrong word actually is a word.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. PJ says:

    No, the President isn’t told everything that agencies are doing. Because while the agencies will always be there, the Presidents come and go.

    Or do you think that on January 20, 2009 Obama was informed about the alien spacecraft and the live and dead aliens stored in Area 51? No, because if Presidents were informed they could then decide to either stop things or, even worse, share the knowledge gained.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  26. Ron Beasley says:

    As I pointed out above@Ron Beasley: we shouldn’t ignore the very real probability that the BND knew about this. Politicians come and go but spies form lifelong relationships.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  27. PJ says:

    Bush gave Merkel that infamous impromptu back rub during a G8 summit in July 2006, someone needs to leak the NSA memo that Bush recieved that morning on Merkel’s cell phone chatter.
    I think that memo would finally explain why he did it…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. C. Clavin says:

    I’d be more worried if we weren’t spying on Foreign Leaders.
    And you can just hear those suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome should one of those leaders do something and we miss it.
    Doug and JKB and Jenos are never going to be happy with anything Obama does or doesn’t do. This is just more of their blind hatred.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

  29. Jack says:

    Didn’t know about Fast and Furious. Didn’t know Solyndra was sliding into bankruptcy. Didn’t know about Bengazi security needs. Didn’t know about the State Department manipulating the Bengazi talking points. Didn’t know about IRS targeting conservatives. Didn’t know about the Justice Department spying on AP reporters. Didn’t know about NSA wiretaps. Didn’t know about ObamaCare website failures. Didn’t know Osama Bin Laden was killed until he saw himself announce it on television (OK that last one is a joke).

    So our President never knows what’s going on? Do they lock the guy up in a room somewhere in the White House every day and only parade him out when they need a speech? It’s disgusting to think that our President is not up to date on the major issues affecting our nation and his Presidency. How can we trust a man who never knows anything?

    Either President Obama is a liar, or he is the most inept President we have ever had. Either way, it’s obvious the American people made a huge mistake.

    Read more at http://eaglerising.com/2502/barack-obama-man-knew-little/#udYK3edMP9tsw83V.99

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 23

  30. C. Clavin says:

    “…Either President Obama is a liar, or he is the most inept President we have ever had…”

    You are kidding, right?
    Your list is full of nonsense.

    “…Didn’t know about IRS targeting conservatives..”

    Um…in the real world they weren’t. In your world…maybe it’s different. Maybe you’re watching too much Fox News?
    Fast and Furious, Solyndra, Benghazi…a whole lot of trumped up nonsense…that does not stand up to scrutiny.
    By the way have you heard about Iraq? The Bush Tax Cuts? Medicare Part D? The 9% contraction in GDP that occured the last quarter of Bush43? The Economic Death Spiral of ’07 – ’08?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

  31. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: Are you saying it’s all Bush’s fault? Typical. Nothing stops on Obama’s desk.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 17

  32. C. Clavin says:

    Jack… Clearly you have a reading comprehension problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  33. anjin-san says:

    @ Jack

    Bengazi security needs

    Yep. Every other President in history has had a daily briefing the security level of each and every US diplomatic mission in the world.

    Obama spends his mornings texting Jay Z about his plans for his next vacation and Michelle’s shopping trips. Thanks for bringing all this to our attention. After all, there were only 12 attacks on our overseas diplomatic facilities while Bush was President. That was a man who was on top of our security needs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  34. anjin-san says:

    @ Jack

    Here is a little fact v. fiction on Solyndra. Just in case you have any interest in the facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  35. legion says:

    @george:

    And actually, I tend to believe it – I just can’t see national leaders getting involved with that kind of detail.

    Agreed – I’d even give Bush a pass on this particular issue. It’s becoming clearer and clearer with every public statement from guys like Alexander that the NSA has been let off its leash for far too long.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  36. JKB says:

    @legion:

    And while you must carry-on the decisions of your predecessor for a time when you assume command, your first 6 months or year is devoted to ratifying or altering those standing orders. As I said, no need to get into the weeds, just issue broad guideline orders. Then you do spot checks and hang a few people who’ve not got with the new program. That will usually get everyone on your page.

    It’s management, leadership 101. The “I don’t know or control what is going on in my command” is never a good position. You are either willfully ignorant or incompetent. This isn’t February 2010, it’s November 2013.

    On the other hand, any foreign national, leader or otherwise, is a fool not to think they might be spied upon by the NSA. The fact so many are willing to call Obama out on it in public is a sign of their low regard for him. I doubt Merkel would have publicly protested to Bush, perhaps in private but not in public. And the others, never.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 12

  37. al-Ameda says:

    @Jack:

    Didn’t know Solyndra was sliding into bankruptcy.

    Okay, I see. Let’s compare failures, shall we?
    (1) Solyndra, $450M, and (2) Decision to wage war in Iraq: well over $1.0T

    or maybe we can compare

    (3) Benghazi, 4 Americans killed, and (4) Marine Barracks bombed in Lebanon, 240 Americans killed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  38. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    Seriously dude, why not just post this link every day. Save yourself some typing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  39. Todd says:

    So a spy agency was spying on people.

    Shocking.

    And the President isn’t aware of the details about absolutely everything that goes on in government.

    Again, totally shocking.

    This is yet another “scandal” that my right-wing friends will be in danger of popping a vein over, while most reasonable people won’t really see what the big deal is.

    As for the NSA in particular, and our spy agencies in general …

    Most Americans expect our intelligence agencies to know practically EVERYTHING. This is plainly evident anytime we have an incident, and the first question out of just about everybody’s mouth is something to the effect of “why didn’t we find out sooner, and stop it?

    … yet, whenever we learn any details of how they go about trying to meet that (nearly impossible) expectation, we throw a hissy fit about “privacy”.

    It’s one or the other.

    Either be willing to accept more risk, or don’t think too much/ask too many questions about exactly how they go about trying to “protect” us.

    No way to have it both ways.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  40. JKB says:

    @anjin-san: Yep. Every other President in history has had a daily briefing the security level of each and every US diplomatic mission in the world.

    Theoretically, presidents have a staff and Secretaries who are delegated responsibilities to oversee and report.

    But I see you advocate for the “powerless” presidency. Powerless in the face of those who work within the branch of government he supposedly heads. “Leader of the Free World” indeed. Obama has yet to show he can lead his personal staff. And keeps pleading ignorance in the face of the bureaucracy he and his minions have had unbroken control of for 5 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

  41. JKB says:

    @anjin-san: It’s funny, back around 2002-03 when the previous administration was busy granting the federal government more or less unlimited power, Republican asked Democrats why they hated American when we questioned the direction we were headed in. To question the “unitary executive” was akin to treason.

    How times change.

    The difference is that Bush was competent and responsible. Obama has demonstrated neither so far. Bush is so responsible, he’s apparently responsible for what’s happening now, during the Obama administration.

    BTW, this apparently uncontrollable NSA, IRS, State, etc. are the very reason why we must reduce the size of the federal government. It is apparently beyond the control of the level of Democrat being elected to oversee the bureaucracy.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 20

  42. EdMigPer says:

    The president doesn’t get briefed on Area 51, either, Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  43. C. Clavin says:

    If you haven’t visited the link Jack provided, you should.
    http://eaglerising.com/2502/barack-obama-man-knew-little/#udYK3edMP9tsw83V.99
    The comments are amazing in their ridiculousness.
    It’s like the greatest hits of JKB and Jenos and bill and Super-Dooper and Florack and whoever else I’m forgetting. Apparently they are just the tip of the Crazy-Town Iceberg.
    Conspiracy Theories stuffed with Delusion and wrapped in Hatred.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  44. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    So your position is that the President’s staff damn well better be aware of security issues at US diplomatic missions and either take care of it themselves and/or make sure the President knows about problems?

    There were (as I mentioned above) 12 attacks on US diplomatic mission during the Bush era. Where was President Bush’s staff? Why did they fail in their “oversee and report” duties?

    We can cover the eight attacks during the Reagan years separately if you like. What was his staff doing all that time? Why was he not providing powerful leadership? The world wonders…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  45. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    The difference is that Bush was competent and responsible.

    Katrina.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  46. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    Bush was competent and responsible.

    Ah, well, that explains 9.11. And the Iraq debacle. And the Katrina debacle. And taking surplus to record deficits. And torture as a policy. And the crash of ’08.

    But hey, Halliburton made about 40 billion. Mission accomplished.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  47. C. Clavin says:

    “…The difference is that Bush was competent and responsible…”

    http://kswt.images.worldnow.com/images/23407192_BG1.jpg

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  48. bandit says:

    Obama’s an idiot – he doesn’t know about anything.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 21

  49. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @legion: Yeah, whether the President knew or not is the headline, but the more interesting story is that active senior NSA officials are throwing the President under the bus – and that’s _never_ supposed to happen in _any_ agency. If it’s a choice between making your agency look bad and making POTUS look bad, you _always_ fall on your own sword. Period. That’s how gov’t service works, regardless of the truth or the parties involved.

    That’s when the officials believe that their loyalty is a two-way street. When they believe that their superiors will hang them out to dry at the first opportunity, then they will act to protect themselves and their subordinates.

    It’s worth noting that the two most recent firings by the Obama administration (defined loosely) were the ObamaCare operator who talked to Sean Hannity, and the NSA staffer who ran that Twitter account. In both cases, the “offenses” weren’t corruption or incompetence or malfeasance, but “making the administration look bad.” Other people who should have been fired were forgiven, transferred, promoted, or allowed to retire with honor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

  50. rudderpedals says:

    @C. Clavin: If you haven’t visited the link Jack provided, you should.

    Warning: High density derpage @ the link’s comments.

    Bookmarked

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  51. al-Ameda says:

    @bandit:

    Obama’s an idiot – he doesn’t know about anything.

    Translation: “neener, neener, neener ….. “

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  52. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    The difference is that Bush was competent and responsible.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAhAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAA…….

    You should get a spot on the Daily Show. Stewart could do wonders with you.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  53. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    Other people who should have been fired were forgiven, transferred, promoted, or allowed to retire with honor

    Good work Skippy! You’ve uncovered another scandal.

    HIgher level people get away with shit. Lower level people don’t. This is unprecidented in human history. Maybe Obama really is in league with Satan…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  54. anjin-san says:

    @ OzarkHillbilly

    The really sad thing is that JKB probably really believes that Bush 43 is more or less a Republican Truman.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  55. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @bandit:

    Obama’s an idiot – he doesn’t know about anything.

    What, you think he get’s his information from Fox News and forms his opinions based on Hannity and Limbaugh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @anjin-san: No, the really sad thing is that JKB believes he is the smartest guy around here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  57. Mikey says:

    The President wouldn’t know the specifics of the method(s) used, or day-to-day operations of, a program to gather intel on Merkel and other foreign leaders, but he certainly would have been briefed on the existence of such a program and any important intel it acquired. This whole “he didn’t know” thing is a crock. Of course he knew.

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  58. george says:

    @JKB:

    BTW, this apparently uncontrollable NSA, IRS, State, etc. are the very reason why we must reduce the size of the federal government. It is apparently beyond the control of the level of Democrat being elected to oversee the bureaucracy.

    One of the biggest elements of the federal government is the military. I assume you include that in your request to reduce the size of the government.

    I agree the Democrats haven’t done a good job in reducing gov’t size – but the Republicans (even Reagan, who expanded the military greatly) have done no better, and in many cases (Bush compared to Clinton for example) did much worse.

    Its hard to take seriously anyone who says they want small government, but ignores the expansions of government the Republicans want. That was one thing so funny about Romney – he wanted a small government, but talked about how much bigger he wanted the military – he’d have done better to be honest and admit he wanted a big government as well, instead of looking like someone giving a flat out lie.

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  59. C. Clavin says:

    @ Ozark and anjin-san…
    I thought Jenos was the smarter one?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  60. C. Clavin says:

    bandit….
    still sniffin’ the lead dogs arse I see….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  61. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @C. Clavin: In his own mind, maybe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  62. JohnMcC says:

    A interesting fact about this little dust-up: This interception began in 2002, which was 3 years before she became chancellor. Wonder how many politicians and how far ‘down’ to levels of government in Germany were spied on?

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  63. Moosebreath says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    “the really sad thing is that JKB believes he is the smartest guy around here.”

    Just like Ted Cruz thinks he’s the smartest guy in the Senate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  64. bandit says:

    @C. Clavin: Still have Obamas balls in your mouth I see

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  65. bandit says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Like you have Obamas balls in your mouth in your dreams

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  66. grumpy realist says:

    @bandit: what a vulgar comment to make. There’s a reason why people vote for your side less and less.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  67. mattbernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It’s worth noting that the two most recent firings by the Obama administration (defined loosely) were the ObamaCare operator who talked to Sean Hannity, and the NSA staffer who ran that Twitter account. In both cases, the “offenses” weren’t corruption or incompetence or malfeasance, but “making the administration look bad.”

    Both individuals signed employment contracts that included code of conduct provisions that the individuals in question clearly violated.

    This is no different than a company firing employee’s who bad mouth it (or reveal internal secrets) on social media.

    But of course, facts really don’t matter then there’s a better groundless argument to make, do they.

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  68. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @bandit: There you go again, straight to the gay fantasies. Really, just come out of the closet already. You’ll feel so much better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  69. C. Clavin says:

    @ mattbernius…
    Also…the woman Hannity got fired worked for a private sector call center contracted to Obamacare.
    Only in the fever swamp did Obama fire her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  70. C. Clavin says:

    “…@C. Clavin: Still have Obamas balls in your mouth I see…”
    Nope…evidently that’s an impeachable offense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  71. al-Ameda says:

    @bandit:

    @C. Clavin: Still have Obamas balls in your mouth I see

    Why are conservatives obsessed with male genitalia?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  72. anjin-san says:

    Why are conservatives obsessed with male genitalia?

    Especially Obama’s…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  73. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: Why are conservatives obsessed with male genitalia? ‘

    Because female genitalia scares them too much to focus on it.

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  74. legion says:

    @JKB:

    And while you must carry-on the decisions of your predecessor for a time when you assume command

    You’re missing the point – A lot of people on both sides are of the opinion that the President (Obama, Bush, or whoever) may legitimately not have been aware of exactly _how_ extensive or high-up the NSA’s efforts were. You can’t “spot-check” something that has been kept deliberately vague specifically for the purposes of plausible deniability.

    It’s management, leadership 101. The “I don’t know or control what is going on in my command” is never a good position. You are either willfully ignorant or incompetent.

    Again, that doesn’t apply in the intelligence community. Plausible deniability. Every administration relies on it.

    On the other hand, any foreign national, leader or otherwise, is a fool not to think they might be spied upon by the NSA.

    On this, OTOH, I am in complete agreement with you. However,

    The fact so many are willing to call Obama out on it in public is a sign of their low regard for him.

    No. Everyone is calling him out on because they _have_ to to express the outrage of their own uninformed citizenry. It’s been made public, so to give _themselves_ the same level of plausible deniability, they _have_ to pretend the thought never occurred to them that anyone would do some so uncivilized.

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  75. legion says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: JKB I can constructively disagree with in this. You OTOH are being deliberately thick. You know what “plausible deniability” means just as well as everyone else here. This isn’t Fox, where you have an audience of gullible, under-educated hicks to fool with your logical fallacies and outright lies – we push back here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  76. pylon says:

    @JKB: So failing to is monitor each and every wiretap is irresponsible. Ignoring a security report about an imminent attack by AQ in NYC because “it’s impossible to have known the precise target and time of day” – that’s understandable.

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  77. Stonetools says:

    It is hard to say which one is worse: that Obama knew about this and nevertheless condoned it or that he did not know about it. On the whole I believe that he did know about it and went along with it, on the principle that it is better to know than not to know.
    I believe that most world leaders in his shoes would’ve gone along with this.Now that it is been revealed, thanks to Mr. Snowden, it may be time to consider concluding an agreement not not to spy on friends . Whether that agreement will be observed, we will have to wait and see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  78. al-Ameda says:

    It seems to me that in our current electronic-digital communications and information environment, that it is hard to keep from spying and mining masses of digital data – it is easier than ever. I’m not sure how you keep modern intelligence agencies – anywhere in the world – from doing this. In fact I do not believe that there is a modern intelligence agency that is not doing this, or at the very least, attempting to do this.

    For now Europe gets to be outraged, and America gets a comeuppance. Fine, however I do not believe for one moment that, as an example, the intelligence services of Britain, Germany, or France are not utilizing all of the most modern tools and methods to spy and mine data concerning their perceived enemies and allies.

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  79. john personna says:

    I don’t care much, but I was amused by this catch on twitter:

    Apparently a BBC reporter in Berlin reported this as “the biggest diplomatic rift between Germany in the United States in living memory.”

    @kjhealy said no, probably not the biggest rift in living memory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  80. pylon says:

    BTW, JKB, it’s sheer fanatasy to think that other contries and world leaders have little ergard for Obama, especially compared to Bush. That assertion simply flies in the face of all available evidence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  81. pylon says:
  82. pylon says:

    I need typing lessons badly. Good thing I have an assistant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  83. C. Clavin says:

    @ pylon…
    You have an assistant type your OTB comments?
    I like how you roll….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  84. Tyrell says:

    Just how far back does this go ? Would they have transcripts of phone conversations with Heinrich Himmler ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  85. Laurence Bachmann says:

    I don’t much care whether Obama knew or didn’t. It is disappointing how much his foreign policy resembles Bush (I.e. Cheney). The best spin you can put on this is the previous administration approved it and NSA didn’t feel compelled to have it re approved. Being unaware for 5 years though isn’t much of a defense. Or encouraging.

    Over at the Atlantic there is an interesting post by Conor Friedersdorf wondering whether Liberals will turn on the President when he out of office if such revelations continue. I don’t want to turn on him now or later, but wonder why there is more outrage from the left or just honest disappointment. The everybody does it defense is crap–who wants to be like them; circling the wagons to spare him just means he has no incentive to modify bad behavior. Also, I don’t think it unreasonable to expect a constitutional scholar to be a better champion of constitutional and international law.

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  86. Tyrell says:

    Denials, dodging questions, humming and hawing, vague answers, obfuscation, misleading. This is what we are getting from the White House. Agencies that are now too powerful and can no longer be controlled. Secret agencies that Congress and the White House has no knowledge of.
    Secret documents and records: it was revealed that the government will not release documents that contain information about the government – Oswald connection; we will never see those made public. The government still keeps classified information about the infamous Booth conspiracy.
    Those will never be released either, including files about the conspirators trial; the most rigged trial in US history.

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  87. bill says:

    @legion: i wondered how long i’d need to scroll before i saw something like that, thanks for making it a short scroll! so here it goes, Bush, Cheney, Halliburton, blah blah bla….. all the while our uber -intellect in chief is being sold as some walter mitty / chauncey gardiner type. or is it just “plausible deniability”?

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  88. Pharoah Narim says:

    Apparently people think world hegemony just comes with being an American. It just happens. Newsflash–Geo Politics aint like personal relationships just like Government finances aren’t like personal finances. There are no “friends”. There are communities of interest which change depending on the issue. The US and Europe happen to belong to alot of the same communities–but not ALL of the same ones. Every nation on earth that has anything to lose or wants to gain on the world stage is gathering intelligence with which to sharpen their decision making. Every last one of these countries is gathering intelligence. You think the communications of our embassies and even leaders when visiting foreign countries aren’t intercepted? Granted the communications are encrypted but once the transmissions are captured you can crack the codes at your leisure. Sure its old info by that time but it helps you piece together a profile on a nation or leader to understand what they are and aren’t capable of.

    This is journalist outrage—the real world is a cat and mouse game with information as currency. This is how nations become world powers, maintain world power, and lose power. If you ain’t playing…you’re losing. Of course Obama is lying–that’s permitted in the defense of classified information. And for public appearances…behind the scenes everyone knows how things go.

    To the tribalist Fascist P’sOS commenting that excuse Bush while attempting to condemn Obama…why don’t you go apologize for America somewhere else. Send Merkel a card if you feel so bad about what’s happened.

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  89. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @legion: You know what “plausible deniability” means just as well as everyone else here.

    Yes, of course, you twit, I know what it means. Which is why I was offering an explanation as to why the people who would be providing Obama with that plausible deniability are not doing so.

    On the other hand, giving Obama some credence here is just how many times he’s claimed to not know just what the hell the people he put in positions of power are doing in his name. I actually find it quite plausible that Obama doesn’t know what is going on in his own administration.

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  90. Mikey says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    You think the communications of our embassies and even leaders when visiting foreign countries aren’t intercepted? Granted the communications are encrypted but once the transmissions are captured you can crack the codes at your leisure.

    I’m pretty sure few nations, if any besides the US, have the capability to break the strongest modern electronic ciphers. And I’m not too sure about the US, although the NSA employs more high-level mathematicians than anyplace else on Earth..

    Nobody would bother with all that mess anyway, they’d just find a side-channel or exploit some other vulnerability.

    Everything else you wrote? Pretty much spot on. As Henry Temple, British Prime Minister from 1855-1858 and 1859-1865, said: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

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  91. @Laurence Bachmann:

    It is disappointing how much his foreign policy resembles Bush

    Indeed. This is a fact that ought to be considered by both defenders and detractors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  92. legion says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Yes, of course, you twit, I know what it means. Which is why I was offering an explanation as to why the people who would be providing Obama with that plausible deniability are not doing so.

    I would beg to differ. Plausible deniability means “the people in power can deny they knew and/or directed what happened, even if that’s not the case”. It’s what leaders in every country and every political philosophy have since the dawn of time used to maintain diplomatic relations with other countries that they see, at best, as competitors. It is completely diametrically opposed to your statement:

    That’s when the officials believe that their loyalty is a two-way street. When they believe that their superiors will hang them out to dry at the first opportunity, then they will act to protect themselves and their subordinates.

    Loyalty being a two-way street is a normal & expected way to run things in most arenas, but not in the intel/diplomacy world. It can’t be. In that realm, you go in knowing and accepting that the image of the US – and the ability of it senior leadership to look other countries in the eye – is more important than your personal ego. If you can’t deal with the idea of having to fall on your own sword for someone who doesn’t deserve it, find another line of work.

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  93. legion says:

    @bill: You really are illiterate, aren’t you? You just used ‘ctrl-f’ to find a Bush/Cheney reference to crow about and read not one single other word on the page, didn’t you?

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  94. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Mikey:Definitely not hostile nations. Friendly 1st world nations have the math but not the processing power. With time, anything can be brute force attacked. It is generally understood that they couldn’t do “just in time” collection. But if it takes you 6 months to guess the right encryption keys on intecepted communications–the information is still useful (as opposed to having no information).

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  95. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    This is a fact that ought to be considered by both defenders and detractors.

    I think both sides know it, it just suits them to emphasize the differences (whether real or imagined).

    For my own self, I like to emphasize the fact that we are out of Iraq and try not to think about my disappointment with Obama’s surge in Afghanistan (or as I said to no one in particular at the time:”WTF?? The surge didn’t work in Iraq, what makes you think Afghanistan will be different???) While he did get us involved in Libya it was on a very limited basis, and while we got into a war of words on Syria he was able to pivot from the idiotic “must do something for the sake of doing something” rhetoric to working with Russia on destroying the chemical weapons. The language with respect to Iran was all too familiar, but Obama let Netanyahu know early on that the US was not an attack dog to be unleashed and this may have played a role in the more conciliatory tone coming from the new regime there.

    So yeah, the similarities are definitely in existence, but why would that surprise anyone? Our interests have not changed and the foreign policy establishments of both parties remain stuck in something of a cold war mindset. The difference between the Bush Admin and Obama’s as I see it is GWB seemed to be led by a group of ideologues into repeated sticky situations where as Obama’s pragmatism seems to have more or less kept the ideologues at bay and us out of situations from which we can not easily extract ourselves. One can certainly argue that Obama has been lucky and I would not deny that, but this present situation is not one of those times.

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  96. grumpy realist says:

    @john personna: Yeah, someone’s not remembering that last little unpleasantness we had between the US and Germany when it was ruled by a psychotic little man with a moustache.

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  97. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: Actually, I sort of doubt that the NSA is t he place where the really high level mathematicians end up. In my experience they become quants on Wall Street.

    (Also, cryptography-breaking will soon be a dead letter when Dwave comes out with their next quantum computer.)

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  98. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @legion: In that realm, you go in knowing and accepting that the image of the US – and the ability of it senior leadership to look other countries in the eye – is more important than your personal ego. If you can’t deal with the idea of having to fall on your own sword for someone who doesn’t deserve it, find another line of work.

    Let’s set aside the hostile language for a moment, shall we, and at least pretend to be amicable.

    The people we are discussing understand that, as a last resort, they may be asked to fall on their sword for the good of the nation, and accept that. However, they expect that it will be a last resort and for the good of the nation. When they start thinking that their sacrifices will be called on at the earliest convenience and for the political benefit of the powers that be, that changes the equation quite a bit.

    To use as an example, the raid that got Bin Laden. A doctor in Pakistan helped us find him. He did the US a great service. After the raid, his identity and role were leaked. (Personally, I think someone in the Obama administration felt like bragging, but it hasn’t been confirmed who spilled the beans.) He was arrested, charged with treason, and is currently in prison and under death threats.

    Legally, we owe him nothing. He technically did break the laws of Pakistan in helping us. Morally, however, we should have done all we could to keep his identity and actions secret. And when they came out, we should have leaned hard on the Pakistani government to release him — maybe exile him, if they like. Then we bring him to the US, give him a new identity and a nice reward for doing us such a great service.

    Instead, we’re hanging him out to dry. And he’s a shining example of how the US treats those who go out of their way to help us.

    Obama’s gotten a lot of mileage out of getting Bin Laden. However, part and parcel of that is what happened to that poor schmuck who made it possible. Our throwing him under the bus like that makes the chances of anyone else sticking their necks out for us very slim.

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  99. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @grumpy realist: Yeah, someone’s not remembering that last little unpleasantness we had between the US and Germany when it was ruled by a psychotic little man with a moustache.

    Let’s give credit where it is due, though: That sociopath with the mustache was democratically elected to power, so he had some legitimacy. Like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. (Both of which, as I recall, hold great admiration for that sociopath’s book and achievements…)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  100. Mikey says:

    @Pharoah Narim: Brute forcing simply takes too long, even with the best minds and most capable supercomputers. You have to work to find a vulnerability, either in the algorithm or the implementation, and exploit it. Brute forcing a single message gives you one message, but exploiting vulnerabilities gives you every message.

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  101. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist: I said the NSA employs more of them, not the best of them. Quants are a whole ‘nother breed.

    Codebreaking will never be a dead letter as long as humans use cryptography, because humans introduce vulnerabilities.

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  102. pylon says:

    @C. Clavin: Nope – I type ‘em myself which is why they are so full of typos.

    I meant it’s good that I have an assistant in real life to make suer that doesn’t happen at work.

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  103. legion says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: OK, I’ll try to analyze this then. I’m curious – how exactly do you think that example in any way relates to this discussion? We’re talking about whether or not Obama, as President, knew or should have known that the NSA was tapping friendly foreign heads of state on a routine basis. That shifted to a look at the definition of ‘loyalty’ in senior gov’t officials and the (arguably) different standards in intel & diplomacy vis-a-vis the current run of “unnamed senior NSA officials” airing their dirty laundry in public to salvage their agency’s rep at the expense of the President’s (and the country’s) credibility.

    How does that have any relation at all to the (admittedly terrible) way the Pakistani guy who helped us get Bin Laden was treated? Do you think Obama, or even anyone at the senior levels of the NSA or State Dept consciously said “screw that guy”? Leaving him to swing was gross incompetence, but it was purely at the operational & middle-management levels of the CIA.

    Now, if you’re trying to make a connection between the kind of amoral dirtbags you reward for doing this kind of work in the field being no more trustworthy once you’ve promoted them to senior jobs in the community, _that’s_ an intriguing topic, but it often just feels like you’re tossing out hand grenades in these debates – “This bad thing happened, therefore Obama is terrible!” with no clear connectivity to the subject – as a way to derail the whole thread. _That’s_ what usually irks me in your posts.

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  104. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    And he’s a shining example of how the US treats those who go out of their way to help us.

    Our throwing him under the bus like that makes the chances of anyone else sticking their necks out for us very slim.

    You know, you might have an argument here, except it is obvious that, as usual, you have no agenda beyond trying to damage Obama. No values, no morality, no standards. Crack a history book and you will see we have been throwing people who have helped us under the bus for a long time. Ask a Hmong tribesman. Or one of the Kurds that a previous administration encouraged to rise up against Saddam.

    Screwing people that help us is an old tradition. Generally we do it in much greater numbers than one.

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  105. anjin-san says:

    @ legion

    How does that have any relation at all to the (admittedly terrible) way the Pakistani guy who helped us get Bin Laden was treated?

    It does if your brain resembles a Glenn Beck chalkboard – “It’s all connected”…

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  106. Jeremy R says:

    NSA, Germany and Handygate: A Reality Check

    The heads of Germany’s intelligence services are now headed to Washington, DC, for meetings with the White House and NSA to smooth over the scandal. At bottom, Germany (like France), seeks not to shut down NSA espionage, rather to get closer to it. Berlin has long been jealous of London and the other Anglosphere members of the so-called Five Eyes community, the SIGINT alliance born in the Second World War which, to this day, constitutes the most successful international intelligence partnership in world history. Perhaps because they were on the wrong side when that alliance was created in the days of the ULTRA secret, German intelligence agencies have always wanted into the club and its privileged inner circle. Although Germany enjoys a tight spy relationship with the United States (and Britain too), Berlin knows its place, and it would like an upgrade.

    Abandoning the US-German intelligence partnership is simply not an option, no matter what politicians may say, and regardless of how much hysteria is created by the media. The reasons for this are well known to intelligence insiders, and are elaborated in a new report in the Berlin daily Die Welt. Its title, “Technically Backward and Helpless,” is painfully accurate. There can be no doubt that Germany’s intelligence and security services, preeminently the Federal Intelligence Service (BND, Germany’s CIA plus NSA equivalent) and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, equivalent to Britain’s Security Service), are indeed deeply dependent on American partners, and have been since the day of their creation.

    The depths of that dependency are laid bare in Die Welt‘s account. Germany’s “helpless dependence” on the U.S. Intelligence Community is not new but it entered a complicated phase after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States which, lest we forget, were staged mostly out of Hamburg, a fact which the Die Welt piece notes: “The Americans did not want to rely exclusively on us after September 11th. That is understandable,” explained a German intelligence official. Thus was born increased attention to Germany among U.S. spy agencies.

    Even in domestic intelligence matters Germany is heavily dependent on American help, especially from NSA, whose SIGINT has been provided to the Germans in many cases, leading to the disruption of a number of planned terrorist attacks in Germany since 2001. “Without information from the Americans, there would have been successful terrorist attacks in Germany in the past years,” explained a BfV official, truthfully.

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  107. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    That sociopath with the mustache was democratically elected to power, so he had some legitimacy.

    I recognize that I am going off topic here, but this is a pet peeve of mine. Hitler was not elected, but was appointed to be Chancellor by President Hindenburg.

    When Hitler ran for the presidency of Germany, he lost pretty badly. I noted some of this some tie ago here: click. The most pertinent information would be as follows:

    Hitler did not personally come to power via election. Indeed, he never even stood for election to the Reichstag (the German legislature), as he wasn’t a German citizen until 1932–he was an Austrian who had renounced his citizenship in 1925, but did not become a German citizen until right before his 1932 run for the presidency (Bullock, 142). In that race, his only attempt at electoral office, he lost badly. In the 1932 election, Hitler challenged incumbent president Hindenburg and won only 30.1% of the vote in first round and 36.8% in the second.

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  108. anjin-san says:

    You mean, gasp @Zippy #13 is presenting a factually incorrect arguement?

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  109. Jeremy R says:

    http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-nsa-european-intelligence-records-20131029,0,2798363.story#axzz2j8a3azyC

    Leaked U.S. documents appearing to show that the National Security Agency collected data on tens of millions of European phone records, an issue that has sparked outrage among U.S. allies, actually represented data handed over to the NSA by European intelligence services as part of joint operations, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

    The claim refutes reports in leading French and Spanish newspapers suggesting that the NSA had vacuumed up French and Spanish telephone records without the knowledge of those governments. U.S. officials now say that the NSA didn’t collect the data — the intelligence services of those countries did.

    Exactly how the telephone records were used is unclear, but U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss classified programs portrayed the operation as related to counter-terrorism efforts and force protection in Afghanistan.

    U.S. intelligence officials had disputed the newspaper stories, but had avoided citing the complicity of European spy agencies until now because of diplomatic sensitivities about exposing the role of foreign intelligence partners.

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  110. Mikey says:

    @Jeremy R: This is the least surprising thing I’ve read all day.

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  111. bill says:

    @legion: it was like 5 comments down, i’m not a computer geek but thx for the lesson on how to search now- really. but still, the bush/cheney stuff is older than the obama admin and doesn’t rate on the blame meter anymore.
    and apparently obama doesn’t know much anymore- knew nothing of this or that millions would lose their health insurance with his wondrous plan.
    deal with it, the msm is even turning on his lameness. period!

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  112. legion says:

    @bill:
    OK, you know how to search. But you still haven’t mastered the reading part of the exercise:

    the bush/cheney stuff is older than the obama admin and doesn’t rate on the blame meter anymore.

    You are truly pathetic. My post was only one sentence. If you had been able to gut it out through even that single half-sentence I wrote before the words “Dick Cheney“, you would have seen the other words:

    Of course, if these kinds of wiretaps have been going on since 2002, as other “unnamed officials” have intimated, that means they were actually given permission – explicit or implicit – by the previous tenant of the Oval Office, Dick Cheney.

    If even one single sentence is too much for you to work through, I don’t even know why I’m typing this, but if the operation we’re discussing was begun in 2002, the the Bush/Cheney administration _is_ entirely relevant.

    You, as the saying goes, are too stupid to insult.

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  113. bill says:

    @legion: sure, and i’m sure it’s bush/cheney that are spying on the new pope too?!

    The National Security Agency spied on the future Pope Francis before and during the Vatican conclave at which he was chosen to succeed Benedict XVI, it was claimed on Wednesday.

    yes, everyone’s dumb compared to you….said no one ever. arguing with uptight people is kinda fun, like throwing gas on a fire to see how burns. but back to reality- it’s obama’s problem now, he’s accountable after 5 yrs i’d assume.

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