John Kerry on Thursday became the first most senior Obama administration official to have acknowledged National Security Agency (NSA) “snooping” problem, admitting in some cases U.S. spying has gone too far.
Addressing an Open Government Partnership (OGP) 2013 conference in London via video link, the U.S. Secretary of State said that intelligence agencies carried out certain operations without informing the senior members of the Obama administration. The “auto-pilot” decisions consequently upset relations between the U.S. and allies including Germany, Spain and Mexico.
European leaders demanded accountability after reports emerged this week that U.S. may have bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone for more than a decade. Citing information provided by ex-NSA operative Edward Snowden, British newspaper The Guardian stated that U.S. hacked around 35 phones of world leaders. Intense pressure mounted on the Obama administration.
Consequently, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reassured U.S. allies and Americans concerned about NSA snooping by conceding that “more constraints” are needed to ensure privacy rights are protected. President Barack Obama also ordered NSA to “stop eavesdropping” on the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB).
Reinforcing Carney’s statement, Kerry admitted that certain U.S. spying practices went out of control.
“In some cases, some of these actions have reached too far and we are going to try to make sure it doesn't happen in the future,” he said.
While Washington officials are adopting an apologetic tone, U.S. spy chiefs don’t think they did anything wrong.
The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA director Keith Alexander told the U.S. House Of Representatives on Tuesday that spying on allies was “hardy perennial” and a “basic tenet” of intelligence gathering which was conducted with the help of European governments.