Chalk up another lousy week for American diplomacy. The last few days brought revelations that the US monitored millions of French phone calls and tapped the cell phone of Germany’s Chancellor: now, a fresh leak suggests that America listened to the conversations of 35 world leaders.
According to the new disclosures set out in in a document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA obtained many of the world leaders’ phone numbers by encouraging officials in the White House and State Department to “share their Rolodexes.” In some cases, the targets of the high-level phone tapping were leaders of countries closely allied to the US.
The news is likely to provoke further outrage in Germany and elsewhere where politicians and media outlets have denounced the extent of US surveillance operations. In response to the German controversy, the White House issued a statement yesterday that it is not tapping the Chancellor’s cell phone — but did not respond to questions about whether the US has done so in the past.
Also on Thursday, Snowden issued a statement in support of a anti-surveillance rally planned for this Saturday in Washington:
In the last four months, we’ve learned a lot about our government.
We’ve learned that the U.S. intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong.
Snowden obtained a trove of classified documents while working as a contractor, and leaked them to The Guardian which, along with the Washington Post and the New York Times, has been publishing their contents in a series of stories embarrassing to the US since this summer.