Two U.S. government sources said two officials assigned to the
White House are conducting a detailed assessment of target lists
used by the NSA, as part of a review of intelligence policy sparked
by leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden.
The objective of the review by a former Justice Department official
and a former NSA official is to evaluate if the risks of diplomatic
or political embarrassment if the spying were publicly exposed
outweigh any benefits, the sources said.
Politically awkward revelations based on documents disclosed by
Snowden have upset American allies from Germany to Brazil and
already led to changes in U.S. intelligence collection.
In the wake of German media revelations that NSA had targeted the
cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. officials
acknowledged such spying was no longer occurring.
Britain's The Guardian, one of the media outlets that had direct
access to Snowden and his cache of classified material, reported in
October that the United States had monitored the phone conversations
of 35 world leaders.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that in reviewing U.S.
eavesdropping policy, the administration is "more effectively
weighing the risks and rewards of our activities. That includes
ensuring that we are focused above all on threats to the American
She said that the White House was also conducting a
broader review of U.S. intelligence activities around the world
"with 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
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U.S. officials acknowledged that the NSA and other U.S. spy agencies
request information from top policy makers, such as White House
officials, when drawing up lists of targets for eavesdropping or
other spying methods.
President Barack Obama met with 16 lawmakers on Thursday to discuss
reforming how U.S. intelligence agencies collect telephone and
internet data after Snowden's revelations.
Obama is due to announce decisions on reforms in a speech that could
come as early as next week. He is expected to include some
restrictions on spying on foreign leaders, changes in storing bulk
telephone data and the appointment of a civil liberties defender in
secret intelligence courts.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball, editing by Alistair Bell and Chizu
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