Obama Weighs Surveillance Policy on Allies

11:03 AM, Oct 29, 2013   |    comments
US President Barack Obama (L) waves next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Brandenburg Gate on June 19, 2013 in Berlin. Barack Obama walks in John F. Kennedy's footsteps on his first visit to Berlin as US president, but encounter a more powerful and sceptical Germany in talks on trade and secret surveillance practices. (CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
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David Jackson, USA TODAY

As President Obama's team grapples with complaints from other countries about U.S. surveillance, their options range from relatively minor changes to scrapping programs entirely.

With a review due by the end of the year, administration officials said that while some changes have been made, there have been no across-the-board changes in policy, including intelligence collection that may involve allies.

That is at odds with a statement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who said "the White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support."

Congress is also reviewing NSA programs, especially as they pertain to allies.

Feinstein said she is opposed to spying on allies, but her statement indicated there could be some exceptions.

"Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers," Feinstein said. "The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders from other nations -- including Spain,r France, Brazil, and Mexico -- have lodged protests after reports of surveillance in their countries. The reports stem from disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Surveillance is the topic of a Tuesday hearing by the House Intelligence Committee on changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said the review places "a special emphasis on: examining whether we have the appropriate posture when it comes to Heads of State; how we coordinate with our closest allies and partners; and what further guiding principles or constraints might be appropriate for our efforts."

Declining to provide details, Hayden said: "We are also looking at whether the system that's been in place for many years, called the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, could be modified to provide better policy guidance for our intelligence activities."

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