President Barack Obama had no knowledge the National Security Agency listened in on the phone conversations of some 35 world leaders for nearly five years, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The NSA ended a program that tapped the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders after the White House discovered the operation during a review of intelligence operations this summer, the Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.
"These decisions are made at NSA," a senior official told the Journal, referring to the content and scope of surveillance programs. "The president doesn't sign off on this stuff," he said.
That protocol, however, now is under review.
Other programs are expected to be terminated, though the administration has not ended all operations involving world leaders because some are producing intelligence valuable to the U.S., according to the Journal.
The disclosure of the phone-tapping program, first reported last week by The Guardian newspaper based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has sparked outrage in the international community.
Merkel complained personally to Obama about her phone being monitored. The U.S. has since officially confirmed it is no longer monitoring any numbers
associated with the chancellor and will not in the future, but has declined to confirm whether it has in the past.
Following the initial revelations this summer of the NSA's Internet and phone-surveillance program, the president announced an internal and an external review to examine NSA practices, and has referred to those reviews in recent weeks as evidence that the administration is serious about investigating allegations of an abuse of power.
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