White House Will Stop Spying on Allies, Feinstein Says

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from The Wall Street Journal,

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee promised a total review of all U.S. spying programs for the first time in decades, and said she expected that the White House would end all spying on leaders of allied countries.

But a senior administration official disputed the assessment, saying the administration wasn’t making “across the board” changes in its surveillance policies. The official said “individual” changes were being made, but declined to describe them.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), an ally of the Obama administration and one of the National Security Agency’s strongest defenders on Capitol Hill, harshly criticized the agency on Monday and said her committee will initiate a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.”

The statements were particularly significant coming from Ms. Feinstein, who receives regular briefings from the White House, and add to a growing critique of the NSA as an organization whose operations have become so far-reaching and complex that it is difficult to oversee them effectively.

The agency has been rebuked repeatedly by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for misrepresenting the nature of its spy programs and for violating the court’s confidential orders. In its defense, NSA officials have said the agency didn’t understand its own programs well enough to describe them accurately to the court.

The latest time U.S. intelligence operations have come under top-to-bottom congressional reviews was during the Church Committee investigation of the 1970s, in the wake of the Vietnam War and Watergate scandal.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA had ended the surveillance of Ms. Merkel and a number of other world leaders after an Obama administration review, started this summer, revealed to the White House the existence of the operation, according to U.S. officials.

That account of the events revealed that spying on allied foreign leaders had gone on for years without Mr. Obama’s direct knowledge. Ms. Feinstein said she regards it as “a big problem” that Mr. Obama wasn’t aware that Ms. Merkel’s communications had been a focus of the NSA spying since 2002.

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