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Ellison’s Must Read of the Day

• October 30, 2013 9:19 am

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My must read of the day is "Spying Known at Top Levels, Officials Say," in the New York Times:

The nation’s top spymaster said on Tuesday that the White House had long been aware in general terms of the National Security Agency’s overseas eavesdropping, stoutly defending the agency’s intelligence-gathering methods and suggesting possible divisions within the Obama administration.

The official, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that the N.S.A. had kept senior officials in the National Security Council informed of surveillance it was conducting in foreign countries. He did not specifically say whether President Obama was told of these spying efforts, but he appeared to challenge assertions in recent days that the White House had been in the dark about some of the agency’s practices. […]

Still, both [General Keith Alexander] and Mr. Clapper said that spying on foreign leaders — even those of allies — was a basic tenet of intelligence tradecraft and had gone on for decades. European countries, Mr. Clapper said, routinely seek to listen in on the conversations of American leaders.

"Some of this reminds me of the classic movie ‘Casablanca’ — ‘My God, there’s gambling going on here,’ " Mr. Clapper said, twisting the line from the movie uttered by a corrupt French official who feigns outrage at the very activity in which he avidly partakes.

Of course they knew. This is the worst-kept secret of established governments. Anyone who can spy does. There are 17 members of the Intelligence Community—a bureaucracy that vast isn’t focusing on one or two regions. Perhaps it wasn't proper etiquette to spy on Chancellor Angela Merkel in such a personal way, but it's naive to think there wasn't a chance we, or someone else, weren’t doing just that.

Russia spies on us. We spy on them. Sure, we are not as friendly with them as we are with Germany, but when it comes to foreign policy every nation is looking out for itself. I find it hard to believe our allies don't spy on the United States as well.

Is there such a thing as a reasonable expectation of privacy when you’re leading a nation? History has shown us there probably isn’t.

Published under: Angela Merkel, Germany, NSA, Russia