White House Tries to Calm NSA Spying Furor

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After a weekend of protests and hard questions from allies, the Obama administration said it will conduct a review of U.S. surveillance activities.

Revelations that the National Security Agency has tapped the phones of world leaders angered many people around the globe, creating an international headache for the president.

Protesters gathered in Washington chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NSA has got to go," as the progressive leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden make their way into world media outlets.

The shock waves are playing havoc with U.S. foreign policy.

"The secrets that have been revealed are doing significant damage to our bilateral relationships with Germany, with Mexico, and with other countries," Sen. Jeane Shaheen, D-N.H., told CBS on Sunday.

The admission that the NSA tracked German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone for years has received the most attention.  But the surveillance includes nearly three dozen other leaders and millions of citizens in Europe and other parts of the world as well.

Spain has summoned the U.S. ambassador after the Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that 60 million phone calls were monitored in Spain in just one month at the end of 2012.

But many leaders in Washington, including key Republicans, are concerned that all the scrutiny could damage efforts to protect Americans against terrorist attacks.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., defended the process on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We've saved many lives in Germany because of the intelligence we've given them," he warned. "The fact is there can be information that is being transmitted that can be useful to us and then ultimately useful to Germany."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers. R-Mich., suggested that allies listening in on allies is a common practice, and that the frenzy should simmer down.

"This whole notion that we're going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interests, I think, is disingenuous," Rogers said.

The White House was quick to put out the word that President Obama didn't know about the eavesdropping on Merkel and other world leaders.

 "I don't have an interest and the people at the NSA don't have an interest in doing anything other than making sure that we can prevent a terrorist attack," Obama said in August.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney opened his Monday briefing by addressing the issue, saying he hoped that an administration review of the surveillance programs would be finished by the end of the year.

"We need to make sure that we're collecting intelligence in a way that advances our security needs and that we don't just do it because we can," Carney told reporters.

Review or not, it is difficult to determine what might make the matter go away with so many leaders and so many media outlets in an uproar.

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John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.