Continuing to play Obama like a fiddle, the Snowden revelations have done more to change US foreign policy in a few short months, than all laws passed since the advent of the Patriot Act. In the latest example of just this, moments ago, USA Today first and the WSJ and others subsequently, reported that according to Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an NSA supporter, the National Security Agency has stopped gathering intelligence on allied political leaders, a practice that has drawn global criticism. "The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support," according to Feinstein. It was not immediately clear if this is an implicit admission that the White House actually did know about the NSA's spying on foreign leaders over the past decade, and lied about being unaware. Recall that Obama denied just this last night, but at this point the pit of lies is so deep, few actually care or are keeping track.
Ironically, in an attempt to redirect once again, Feinstein "criticized President Obama over reports he only recently learned about the monitoring that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel's communications were being collected since 2002," she said. "That is a big problem." Don't worry Dianne, he knew everything, but an autocrat-in-waiting has to lie do what an autocrat-in-waiting has to lie do.
From USA Today:
As a growing chorus of nations protest U.S. surveillance policies, Obama's spokesman said Monday that an ongoing review will address the concerns of allies.
The review of NSA programs is designed to insure that intelligence gathering protects "both the security of our citizens and our allies and the privacy concerns shared by Americans and citizens around the world," said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
Administration officials refused to comment on a report indicating that Obama learned only this year about a program that monitored the communications of foreign leaders -- a situation that wouldn't be particularly unusual, said an intelligence expert.
Paul Pillar, a former senior intelligence officer, said most presidents don't know about "the targeting decisions" made by their intelligence agencies.
"It would be a horrible drain on the president's time and attention," Pillar said.
So instead the president can focus all his time and energy on creating 40-ing websites and taking over the public healthcare system?
As reported earlier, Spain was the latest country to be exposed as having been the target of the NSA's extensive espionage (at a massive cost to US taxpayers), resulting in just the latest ambassadorial summoning. Which of course was merely more theater, set in motion merely to appease the locals.
Pillar said it's not the tactics themselves that create international friction as much as the fact that they have now been publicized.
"Not only do allies spy on each other all the time, allies know about it all the time," Pillar said.
Normally, he said, nations that discover surveillance from other countries would tighten their security procedures and not make "a public stink" about it.
But the news coverage – inspired by the Snowden revelations and fueled by outrage from their domestic constituents – forces leaders to confront the United States.
The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany, where memories of the nation's Cold War divisions remain fresh. That includes domestic spying by police forces in Communist-run East Germany – the native region of Chancellor Merkel, an outspoken critic of NSA tactics.
"Their history is speaking very loudly to them," said Heather Conley, senior fellow and director of the Europe Program with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Conley and Pillar said intelligence agencies do gather information on each other, on items ranging from positions on trade negotiations to the political troubles of the targeted government.
The difference these days? "It's a public discussion," Conley said.
Precisely. Because the public has had enough of governments scheming behind their backs, always to the detriment of common people. And the person to thank for all of this is none other than Edward Snowden, who instead of being praised as a hero in his home country, has been forced into exile into the country that once upon a time was the "evil empire." How the times have changed in the despotic New Normal.
As for Feinstein's promise that the US will stop spying either on foreign leaders, or domestically, that is about as good as any other promise made by an insolvent empire, not only spying on everyone else - that is expected of everyone - but terrified of its own people and thus much more intent on isolating and silencing "all enemies domestic" - in full decline.