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NEW YORK, October 28 (Itar-Tass) - The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) ended a programme used to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a number of other world leaders after an internal Obama administration review started this summer revealed to the White House the existence of the operation, U.S. officials said, The Wall Street Journal’s online version reported on Sunday.
The American and British media this summer made public information about the NSA secret surveillance programmes, which was handed over to them by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. After that, the White House initiated an internal investigation, which showed that the agency tapped the phones of about 35 heads of state.
The White House cut off some monitoring programmes after learning of them, including the one tracking Ms. Merkel and some other world leaders, a senior U.S. official said. Other programmes have been slated for termination but haven’t been phased out completely yet, officials said, the WSJ writes. The newspaper said that it could not be immediately learned how many of the eavesdropping operations were stopped, or who is on the list of leaders still under surveillance.
According to the publication, President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them.
A senior U.S. official said that the current practice has been for these types of surveillance decisions to be made at the agency level. “These decisions are made at NSA,” the official said. “The president doesn’t sign off on this stuff.” That protocol now is under review, the official added.
Last week, a series of European press reports suggested that the American intelligence services tapped telephone conversations of the French, Italians, Germans, and even were monitoring Merkel’s cell phone. Previous reports stated that the NSA had wiretapped the leaders of Brazil and Mexico.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Obama had to hold a phone conversation with Merkel to give her appropriate explanations. According to Carney, the U.S. president assured the German chancellor that the American intelligence agencies “are not monitoring and will not monitor” her telephone communications.
On Sunday, the NSA also denied the media reports suggesting that Obama had long known about the wiretapping of the German chancellor. However, the agency has not confirmed the very fact of spying on the German government head.