German media reports President Barack Obama was briefed by NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander on the program in 2010 and did not stop it. On the other hand The Wall Street Journal reported President Obama was unaware of the NSA’s spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders until the operation was discovered through an internal administration review.
The question is which is worse? Obama knowing or not knowing.
Countries spy on both their friends and their enemies, John Kerry admitted that fact a few weeks ago and he is being absolutely truthful. It would be very surprising if one of our enterprising allies didn't have some sort of information about what is going on in the White House.
The anger over the NSA wire-taps on foreign leaders is reminiscent of the famous scene in Casablanca where Captain Louis Renault announces he is closing down Rick's Café Américain. When he scolds owner Rick, saying he is shocked that he would allow gambling in is Cafe' someone comes up to the Captain and hands him his gambling winnings for the evening.
In the end, if Obama did indeed know about the spying, it will eventually blow away. Although it may motivate Israel toward a renewed push for the release of Jonathan Pollard.
The frightening part comes if the President did not know about the spying program. According to the WSJ Obama didn't know about the program until this past summer when he ordered a review of the NSA surveillance programs.
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.Assuming the officials who talked to the Journal were being truthful that Edward Snowden knew about the program but President didn't , it means our spy agencies have too much independence, or our President is too removed from national security, that he didn't know our ally's leaders were being spied upon. We are not talking about the mass collection programs such as PRISM which have their own problems. Our country was spying on the heads of other countries and the commander-in-chief did not know about it. The only reason to do that is for real-time intelligence about what our allies are doing at the highest levels.
That raises all kinds of questions such if the spying wasn't being done for the President's benefit, who else wanted the information about Merkel and others and for what purpose was the information used? And what other spy programs are being executed without the President's knowledge?
On Face the Nation yesterday panelist Bob Woodard warned about a powerful "secret government" referring to the FBI and our spy agencies. And based on the NSA bugging scandal, the drone program, President Obama needs to review these secret organizations and their power within the government.
That is of course if the President knew. As Ed Morrissey wrote in Hot Air
The idea that Obama didn’t know about this program is absurd on its face. That doesn’t mean it started with Obama, and it’s almost assured that it didn’t. However, more than four years after taking office, Obama can’t seriously think that anyone will believe that he just found out about this NSA effort from the funny papers.