Obama on European Spying: ‘That’s How Intelligence Services Operate’

July 1, 2013 - 3:07 PM

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President Barack Obama, left and first lady Michelle right, wave as they board their flight on Air  (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama’s response to a question about spying on European Union member largely boiled down to stating every other country does it, but he said there are few secrets between the United States and European allies.

“I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in – if not what I had for breakfast – at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders. That’s how intelligence services operate,” Obama said Monday during a joint press conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete at the State House in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

He later added, “Ultimately, we work so closely together, there’s almost no information that’s not shared between our various countries.”

The German weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday that the European Union was a target of the National Security Agency’s spying program, with bugs hidden in EU offices in Brussels. The EU has demanded that the United States explain the report.

French President Francois Hollande said the alleged spying could hinder U.S. relations with France.

During Monday’s press conference, a reporter asked Obama if the U.S. is spying on European allies.

Obama did not directly answer, but said his “team,” presumably his national security team, is looking into the matter and will notify European allies of the finding.

The information came from Edward Snowden, the fugitive NSA leaker.

“With respect to the latest article, that in part, I gather is prompted by Mr. Snowden’s leaks, we’re still evaluating the article because the problem is that these things come out in dribs and drabs. We don’t know necessarily what programs they’re referring to,” Obama said.

“We don’t know how they’re sourced, and so what I’ve said is to my team, ‘Take a look at this article. Figure out what they may or may not be talking about, and then what we’ll do is we’ll communicate to our allies appropriately,’” he added.

Obama further commented that the nature of intelligence gathering is looking beyond open source information.

“We should stipulate that every intelligence service, not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service, here’s one thing they’re going to be doing,” Obama said.

“They’re going to be trying to understand the world better and what’s going on in world capitals around the world from sources that aren’t available through the New York Times or NBC News, that they’re seeking additional insight beyond what’s available to open sources. If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an intelligence service,” he added.

The president continued that European countries are likely looking at the United States and ‘That’s how intelligence services operate.’ But, he said he will call if he wants to know what their leaders are thinking.

“I’m the end user of this kind of intelligence,” Obama said. “If I want to know what Chancellor Merkel is thinking, I will call Chancellor Merkel. If I want to know what know what President Hollande is thinking on a particular issue, I’ll call President Hollande. If I want to know what David Cameron is thinking, I call David Cameron. Ultimately, we work so closely together, that there’s almost no information that’s not shared between our various countries.”