NSA global spying goes too far, former White House security official says

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Former White House official Howard Schmidt meets with U.S. President Barack Obama (White House photo)

Former White House official Howard Schmidt meets with U.S. President Barack Obama (White House photo)

A former White House security official says the United States has gone too far with its secret global surveillance programs, many of which were made publicly known by a former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower.

Howard Schmidt, who recently served as President Barack Obama’s “cyber-security coordinator” and was once a security advisor to former President George W. Bush, told German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle in November that global surveillance programs, like the one that targeted German leader Angela Merkel, were morally wrong, even though legally permitted.

“The rules are different against citizens of one nation relative to another,” Schmidt said. “What we have to do is, we have to collectively, around the world, back away from that.”

Schmidt said taking the high road — not spying on foreign leaders friendly to the United States — meant U.S. officials “may not know everything, but that’s why we have negotiations.”

“Guess what? You’re going to go into a meeting and you’re not going to know what the other side thinks,” Schmidt said. “But we’ve done that for light years. And that’s what we have to go forward with.”

Merkel and other leaders were upset after a magazine report said NSA agents had bugged the German chancellor’s phone. According to reports, President Obama both knew and authorized the surveillance on Merkel’s phone.

Merkel, who compared the NSA to the Stasi in December, is expected to visit Washington later this month.

Officials in Berlin have called on the United States to sign a “no-spy” agreement. Though talks continue, the likelihood that the U.S. will agree to such a pact seem dismal — former CIA chief James Woosley told Deutsche Welle in November that he doubts the U.S. would agree to such an arrangement

“That would mean that if we had somehow come across the (September 11 terror attack) planners who operated out of Hamburg that we couldn’t collect intelligence on them,” Woosley said. “That is not an agreement that I think any American president would sign with respect to Germany or any other country.”

Deutsche Welle: Former White House official says NSA spying goes too far