As is always the case with political scandals, we have two conflicting reports. On one hand, you have an anonymous National Security Agency official saying that US President Barack Obama was briefed on the spying efforts against 35 world leaders and allowed it to continue. The response from the NSA is that he was told a short time ago and had the operations ceased. Neither option is good for the President or the United States.
According to Fox News:
The Economic Times writes the “high-ranking” NSA official spoke to Bild am Sonntag on the condition of anonymity, saying the president, “not only did not stop the operation, but he also ordered it to continue.”
According to the Wall Street Journal:
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.
If one were to apply logic, it could be assumed that operations that included illegal tapping the communications of important world leaders, including allies, would not be “lost in the mix” and avoid the President’s attention, in which case he has known about it for a while and allowed it to continue. There is, of course, the possibility that logic was defied once again in Washington DC, in which case he did not know that his spy agency was listening in on conversations (some of which could have been with him) and that he really has completely lost control of the people charged with keeping the country safe.
It’s a tough call as to which is worse. Is he devious or impotent? If he knew about it, he’s not the transparent president that his voters thought they were getting. If he didn’t know about it, he’s not the competent president that his voters thought they were getting. Either way, either his actions or his ignorance have truly cost the country a big chunk of the waning credibility that we have with the international community.