(WASHINGTON) — A public dispute is simmering between the NSA and the State Department over U.S. spying and whether policymakers requested wiretaps of foreign leaders.
Secretary of State John Kerry and NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander pointed fingers in separate public comments Thursday, and a State Dept. spokeswoman Friday deflected questions on Alexander’s assertions.
On Thursday, Kerry said U.S. surveillance has gone “too far” at times and has been happening “on an automatic pilot,” in a teleconference with an open-government summit in London — insinuating the intelligence community had pursued surveillance without direct oversight from Kerry or President Obama.
Last night, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander suggested U.S. diplomats and policymakers requested the wiretaps that have caused embarrassment for the U.S. abroad.
Alexander said the NSA was asked to discover “leadership intentions” of foreign countries, The Guardian reported.
“We the intelligence agencies don’t come up with the requirements. The policymakers come up with the requirements,” Alexander said, pressed for a national-security justification for spying on foreign leader by a former U.S. ambassador to Romania and current Maryland state senator, at a Baltimore Council on Foreign Relations event.
“One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh: ambassadors,” Alexander said.
At Friday’s State Department briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki deflected questions on whether the State Dept. bears responsibility for the wiretaps.
“We’re all working together — the White house, the State Department, any department that has any connection with foreign governments,” Psaki said, when pressed on whether the State Department accepts Alexander’s assertions.
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