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

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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.
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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.