While Spying on Israel, NSA Recorded US Lawmakers, Too
Agency did keep 'trash talk' against administration out of reports: US officials
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2015 8:03 AM CST
In this June 6, 2013, file photo, the National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md., is shown.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(Newser) – In 2013, after Edward Snowden dropped his NSA bombshell, President Obama called for an end to spying on certain world leaders. But Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli bigwigs remained on the "keep an eye on" list for "compelling national security" reasons, current and ex-US officials tell the Wall Street Journal. Included in the US spying sweep were conversations between Israeli officials and US lawmakers and American-Jewish groups, which, as one senior US official tells the paper, resulted in an "Oh s--- moment" that the executive branch would be nailed for spying on Congress. The White House, though, felt the info necessary to rebut lobbying Netanyahu might do against a US-Iran deal; still, it was "wary of a paper trail stemming from a request." And so "we didn't say, 'Do it' [to the NSA]," a senior US official tells the Journal. "We didn't say, 'Don't do it.'"

Instead, the administration more or less let the NSA share whatever info it saw fit, and the NSA did just that, reportedly following tight mandates about spying on communications "to, from, or about" Americans, the paper notes. For example, the agency took out names of individual lawmakers and any personal info in reports it submitted to the White House and also omitted any "trash talk" about the administration, officials tell the Journal. At least one presidential candidate isn't surprised by the revelations. "This administration views Congress, Republicans, and sometimes even Democratic members of Congress as their enemy," Ted Cruz tells CBS News. "At times, it seems like they view the American people as their enemy." A National Security Council spokesman, however, tells CBS, "[W]e do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike."