Wall Street Journal
U.S. Says France, Spain Aided NSA Spying
Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman
Oct. 29, 2013 12:55 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—Widespread electronic spying that ignited a political firestorm in France and Spain recently was carried out by their own intelligence services and not by the National Security Agency, U.S. officials say.
The phone records collected by the Europeans—in war zones and other areas outside their borders—then were shared with the NSA, U.S. officials said, as part of efforts to help protect American and allied troops and civilians.
The new disclosure upends the version of events as reported in Europe in recent days, and puts a spotlight on the role of European intelligence services that work closely with the NSA, suggesting a greater level of European involvement in global surveillance.
The U.S. has so far been silent about the role of European partners in these collection efforts so as to protect relationships. These efforts are separate, however, from the U.S. spying programs that targeted dozens of foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose phones were tapped for years by the NSA.
The NSA declined to comment, as did the Spanish foreign ministry and a spokesman for the French Embassy in Washington. A spokesman for Spain's intelligence service said: "Spanish law impedes us from talking about our procedures, methods and relationships with other intelligence services."
In recent days, leading newspapers in France and Spain have cited documents provided by the fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in reports that alleged that the NSA was sweeping up massive quantities of phone records in those countries.
Le Monde said the documents showed that more than 70 million French phone records between early December 2012 and early January 2013 were collected by the NSA, prompting Paris to lodge a protest with the U.S.
In Spain, the El Mundo newspaper reported that it had seen NSA documents that showed the U.S. spy agency had intercepted 60.5 million phone calls in Spain during the same time period.
After publication of the report in Le Monde last week, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that it contained "inaccurate and misleading information regarding U.S. foreign intelligence activities."
He said the allegation that the NSA collected more than 70 million "recordings of French citizens' telephone data" is false, but he provided no further explanation of what the data in the documents showed.
Officials privately have said the disclosures in the European press put the U.S. in a difficult bind.
The U.S. wants to correct the record about the extent of NSA spying but doing so in this case would require it to expose its allies' intelligence operations, the officials say, which could compromise cooperation in the future as well as ongoing intelligence efforts.
U.S. officials said the Snowden-provided documents had been misinterpreted and actually show phone records that were collected by French and Spanish intelligence agencies, and then shared with the NSA, according to officials briefed on those discussions.
U.S. intelligence officials studied the document published by Le Monde earlier this month and have determined that it wasn't assembled by the NSA.
Rather, the document appears to be a slide that was assembled based on NSA data received from French intelligence, a U.S. official said.
Based on an analysis of the document, the U.S. concluded that the phone records the French had collected were actually from outside of France, and then were shared with the U.S. The data don't show that the French spied on their own people inside France.
U.S. intelligence officials haven't seen the documents cited by El Mundo but the data appear to come from similar information the NSA obtained from Spanish intelligence agencies documenting their collection efforts abroad, officials said.
The U.S. hasn't made public the role of European spy agencies in the collection efforts because of the diplomatic sensitivities of outing partner services, which the NSA relies on for a considerable amount of intelligence.
Public disclosure of European complicity in the collection efforts would likely spark domestic outrage in those countries against their own governments, and could threaten cooperation with the U.S.
U.S. officials said the European collection programs were part of long-standing intelligence sharing arrangements between the U.S. and its closest allies. Officials said the figures may not reflect the entirety of the phone records collected by France and Spain.
New York Times
N.S.A. Head Says European Data Was Collected by Allies
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
Published: October 29, 2013
WASHINGTON — The head of the National Security Agency on Tuesday vigorously challenged recent reports that the United States had been gathering the phone records of millions of Europeans, saying that the records had in fact been turned over by allied spy services.
“This is not information we collected on European citizens,” said the agency’s director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander. “It represents information that we and our NATO allies have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations.”
General Alexander said that phone data was generally collected outside Europe.
The Wall Street Journal reported on its website on Tuesday that intelligence services in France and Spain had collected phone records of their citizens and turned them over to the N.S.A. as part of an arrangement to mitigate threats against American and allied troops and civilians.
But General Alexander and James R. Clapper Jr., director of national intelligence, broadly defended the N.S.A.'s practice of spying on foreign leaders. Such espionage, they said, was a basic pillar of American intelligence operations that had gone on for decades.
Both men said the intelligence was invaluable because it provided American leaders with an idea of how other countries planned to act toward the United States.
Such spying was essential, the officials said, because other countries, including allies, spy on the United States. “It is one of the first things I learned in intelligence school in 1963,” Mr. Clapper said. “It’s a fundamental given.”
The two officials defended their operations before the House Intelligence Committee at a time the N.S.A. has come under growing criticsm and calls for a congressional review of the nation’s surveillance efforts. They said members of the intelligence community were also American citizens who were determined to protect American privacy while identifying national security threats.
“To be sure, on occasion we have made mistakes,” Mr. Clapper said, adding that the intelligence agencies would work with Congress to address any concerns.
But the committee chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, said he was disturbed by the criticisms of the intelligence services, adding that many recent reports — including the ones in Europe about N.S.A. collection there — were inaccurate.
“This is the time for leadership, it is not a time to apologize,” Mr. Rogers said.
The intelligence committee hearing took place as key Congressional Republicans and Democrats expressed misgivings in the wake of a report that the N.S.A. had targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for surveillance for several years.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and one of the fiercest defenders of American surveillance operations, said Monday that she did “not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers.”
Ms. Feinstein said her committee would be conducting a “major review” of the intelligence programs.
According to administration and Congressional officials, the White House has told Ms. Feinstein that President Obama is poised to order the N.S.A. to stop eavesdropping on the leaders of American allies. On Tuesday, another supporter of the N.S.A., Speaker John A. Boehner, raised questions about its programs.
“I don’t think there’s any question that there needs to be review, there ought to be review, and it ought to be thorough,” Mr. Boehner said. “We’ve got obligations to the American people to keep them safe. We’ve got obligations to our allies around the world.”
“But having said that, we’ve got to find the right balance here,” he added. “And clearly, there’s — we’re imbalanced as we stand here.”
Shortly before the hearing began, protesters holding pink signs chastised Mr. Clapper and General Alexander, demanding they apologize to Ms. Merkel.
“It’s counterproductive to spy on our own allies, let alone our own citizens,” one of the protesters said. Mr. Rogers had one of the protesters removed a few minutes later.