Wretched indeed is the nation in whose affairs foreign powers are once permitted to intermeddle!
-Thomas Jefferson, 1787
According to the Guardian’s account of information passed to the paper by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, there are at least 35 countries around the world that are now very wretched indeed.
“The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department,” the Guardian’s James Ball wrote on October 24.
Citing a “confidential memo,” the Guardian reports that NSA officials asked other departments of the Executive Branch to hand over their foreign contact lists so that they phone numbers on those “Rolodexes” could be added to NSA surveillance target rosters.
After the U.S. government officials complied with the NSA’s request, the numbers of the foreign leaders were immediately “‘tasked’ for monitoring by the NSA.”
Many of those overseas targets of NSA snooping have called out the Obama administration, demanding that the president explain the reports and order the wiretaps be removed. Among those most vocal in their remonstrance was German chancellor Angela Merkel (shown, left). In a separate article, the Guardian’s Ian Traynor wrote:
Merkel was said by informed sources in Germany to be "livid" over the reports and convinced, on the basis of a German intelligence investigation, that the reports were utterly substantiated.
The German news weekly, Der Spiegel, reported an investigation by German intelligence, prompted by research from the magazine, that produced plausible information that Merkel's mobile was targeted by the US eavesdropping agency. The German chancellor found the evidence substantial enough to call the White House and demand clarification.
When asked October 23 about Merkel’s allegations, White House press secretary Jay Carney responded,
I can tell you that today, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel spoke by telephone regarding the allegations that you mention, that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted the communications of the German Chancellor. And I can tell you that the President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the Chancellor.
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Photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande: AP Images