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NSA: Obama Didn't Know!

(CNN) -- The White House learned this summer that the National Security Agency had tapped the phones of world leaders and ordered a halt to some of the eavesdropping, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Quoting unidentified U.S. officials, the newspaper's website said the wiretapping of about 35 foreign leaders was disclosed to the White House as part of a review of surveillance programs ordered by President Barack Obama after NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified details of the NSA's phone monitoring systems.

The White House ordered a halt to the monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and unspecified other leaders, the newspaper reported. The Journal report did not specify who gave the shutdown order or the date it was issued.

White House: Reviewing surveillance of allies

Responding to the report for the White House, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden did not directly address surveillance of foreign leaders. Instead, she described the ongoing review as "including when it comes to our closest foreign partners and allies."

Merkel said last week that reports of American spying on her and other leaders had "severely shaken" relationships between the United States and European nations.

The German leader said she told Obama last week that eavesdropping among friends "is never acceptable." The White House said at the time that Merkel's communications were not being monitored -- without saying whether she had been targeted in the past.

Should the president know wiretap details?

The officials quoted by The Wall Street Journal said it was understandable that Obama did not know about the phone tapping of Merkel and other leaders for nearly five years of his presidency because the NSA has so many eavesdropping programs, it would not have listed all of them for the president.

"The president doesn't sign off on this stuff," one official was quoted as saying. But the official said that policy was under review, the Journal reported.

The Journal report said some surveillance of foreign leaders continues, and surveillance of others is being phased out.

NSA denies chief told Obama about Merkel tap

Separately, the NSA on Sunday denied a report by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that NSA Director Keith Alexander told Obama about the surveillance of Merkel in 2010.

"Gen. Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel," NSA spokeswoman Vanee' Vines told CNN. Read more via CNN...

 

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