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The blame game: NSA chief points finger at US diplomats in spy scandal

Published time: November 01, 2013 08:02
U.S. Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command (Mark Wilson / Getty Images / AFP)

U.S. Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command (Mark Wilson / Getty Images / AFP)

In an unexpected twist in the NSA scandal, spy chief Keith Alexander has blamed US diplomats for ordering surveillance on EU politicians. Meanwhile, State Secretary John Kerry has admitted espionage “reached too far,” alleging it was on “automatic pilot.”

Indicating a rift between the White House and the NSA, Director of the spy organization, Keith Alexander, has accused “policy makers” and “diplomats” for dictating the targets for surveillance. In a heated exchange, former ambassador to Romania, James Carew Rosapepe, challenged Alexander to justify spying on US allies, reported the Guardian.

"We all joke that everyone is spying on everyone," he said. "But that is not a national security justification," said Rosapepe.

Alexander replied sharply to the question, alleging ambassadors had a hand in ordering spy activities.

“That is a great question, in fact as an ambassador you have part of the answer. Because we the intelligence agencies don't come up with the requirements, the policymakers come up with the requirements,” Alexander said.

He added sarcastically: "One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh! - ambassadors."

Passing the buck

As the NSA points the finger at the Obama Administration for ordering the mass surveillance of European citizens, the White House is seeking to distance itself from the scandal, intimating the NSA was acting of its own volition.

Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the accusations, that the NSA recorded millions of European citizens’ telephone calls, in a video conference to London on Thursday. Kerry conceded that US surveillance had “reached too far” and stated that the NSA had been conducting its espionage on “automatic pilot.”

“In some cases, I acknowledge to you, as has the president, that some of these actions have reached too far, and we are going to make sure that does not happen in the future,” Kerry said, stressing an inquiry is currently underway to reassess American intelligence gathering programs.

Washington came under fire this week when a delegation from the EU came to get answers over the NSA’s activities in Europe. According to the revelations released by former CIA worker, Edward Snowden, to the press, the US not only targeted regular citizens, but also businessmen and high-profile politicians.

The White House did not give many answers to the delegation, they instead sought to justify espionage in Europe as a measure to protect against terrorism.

“It is much more important for this country that we defend this nation and take the beatings than it is to give up a program that would result in us being attacked,” Alexander told the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. He went on to say that the US only collected data related to warzones in the Middle East.