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Editorial: We need better answers from Obama

Can anyone really say that they’re shocked that the National Security Agency has been listening in on our “friends” such as like German Chancellor Angela Merkel?

After all, today’s friend may not always become tomorrow’s adversary, but international politics and nationalistic self-interests can have allies playing both sides of the line. It gives credence to the saying “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”

Don’t forget it was not that long ago that France was actively supporting Libya’s terrorist leader Muammar Gaddafi in the interest of keeping their oil flowing, and that Italy’s Prime Minister Bettino Craxi had warned Gaddafi two days before a secret American air strike was aimed at him.

More disturbing is the claim by the White House that President Barack Obama didn’t know that the NSA was spying on Merkel and other leaders around the globe until this summer, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. That raises all kinds of questions. Is the president telling the truth? Or was it a conscious decision to keep him out of the loop, providing him with “credible deniability?”

Who, then, has been making the decisions on the extent and reach of the NSA spying?

As reported in the Washington Post, briefings for the president are often focused on the pressing issues, ones that normally involve people, places and nations that don’t meet the grade as ally, let alone a supposedly trusted ally.

That argument runs that the president of the United States cannot be expected to know everything that all of the departments, agencies, etc., are doing. Anyone sitting in the Oval Office who tried to micromanage it all on a daily basis wouldn’t be long for the job.

Remember Jimmy Carter?

But when the president did learn of this activity, just how much information did he ask for? Did he know the full extent of what the NSA has been doing? Was he informed, for example, that the NSA monitored more than 60 million phone calls in Spain, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, or that a similar number of calls in France were logged?

Consider what Obama said in August: “I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people. Our intelligence is focused, above all, on finding the information that’s necessary to protect our people and, in many cases, protect our allies. It’s true we have significant capabilities. What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do, refuse to show.”

Did he or others in the White House and NSA think that somehow this wouldn’t come out? And finally, did Obama decide to cut off the program because the government got caught or because we just don’t do this to our allies?

The American public deserves better answers than the ones it has been getting so far. And that also includes what else is being kept from the American people and, possibly, the president.

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