The National Security Agency monitored 60 million phone calls made in Spain over the course of a single month last year, according to a report published by a Spanish newspaper Sunday evening.
El Mundo, citing information in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reported that the NSA collected data on the phone calls, which were made in December 2012. Spain is the third different Western European country in less than a week to have a major news publication report on NSA surveillance of phone calls in that country. Earlier this week, officials in France and Germany demanded explanations from the U.S. after reports detailed NSA surveillance of phone calls, most notably that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which Der Spiegel reported dated back to 2002.
According to the Associated Press, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich was quoted Sunday as telling newspaper Bild am Sonntag he wants "complete information on all accusations" and that "if the Americans intercepted cellphones in Germany, they broke German law on German soil." He added wiretapping is a crime and "those responsible must be held accountable."
Bild am Sonntag also reported that a "high-ranking" NSA official had told them that President Barack Obama not only knew of the NSA surveillance on Merkel's phone, but ordered it to continue. However, White House officials told the Wall Street Journal that the program used to spy on Merkel's phone was brought to an end this summer after an internal review ordered by the administration revealed its existence.
Officials told the Journal that the internal review revealed that the NSA had monitored approximately 35 world leaders. The German newspaper Frankfuter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that when Merkel called Obama last week to alternately complain -- and get an explanation -- about the NSA surveillance, the president assured her he wasn’t aware of the campaign regarding her, and would have halted it, had he known.
NSA officials told the Journal that it would have been impractical to brief Obama on every one of the operations the agency was carrying out.
"[Surveillance] decisions are made at NSA," one official told the Journal. "The president doesn't sign off on this stuff." The official added that particular policy was under review.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Sunday, "The President has directed us to review our surveillance capabilities, including when it comes to our closest foreign partners and allies ... the United States is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly account for the security concerns of our citizens and allies and the privacy concerns that all people share." She declined to reveal details of the review or the internal discussions that led to it.