Snowden's Latest: NSA Spied on 35 World Leaders Thanks to Government "Rolodexes"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 24 2013 3:48 PM

Snowden's Latest: NSA Spied on 35 World Leaders

179768851
President Barack Obama listens during a press conference at the end of the G20 Leaders' Summit on September 6, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia

Photo by Sergey Guneev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

Looks like President Obama may have a few more fence-mending international phone calls in his future, via the Guardian:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its "customer" departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their "Rolodexes" so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems. The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately "tasked" for monitoring by the NSA.
Advertisement

The document in question is dated October 2006, halfway through George W. Bush's second term. That may give the White House some diplomatic cover, but it is unlikely to ease current tensions with world leaders who have been less than pleased with recent revelations about the U.S. government's wide-ranging surveillance programs.

On Wednesday Obama called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to assure her that the United States is not currently monitoring her cell phone, a noticeably present-tense denial of Merkel's suspicions that the U.S. government has listened in on her calls in the past. That call came two days after Obama phoned French President François Hollande in an attempt to smooth things over after Le Monde published its own Snowden-fueled report claiming that the NSA had been engaged in widespread spying on French citizens on "a massive scale." Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic, Mexico learned this past weekend that America has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.