WASHINGTON—The National Security Agency ended a program used to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a number of other world leaders after an internal Obama administration review started this summer revealed to the White House the existence of the operation, U.S. officials said.Right. Not practical to tell the president that his fellow world leaders' private cell phones were being tapped. It's not a terrible surprise that the NSA is spying on world leaders, but it's not particularly helpful to admit that the NSA is doing this all on its own, without informing the president or, presumbably, the congressional leaders that are supposed to be overseeing its operations.
Officials said the internal review turned up NSA monitoring of some 35 world leaders, in the U.S. government's first public acknowledgment that it tapped the phones of world leaders. European leaders havejoined international outrage over revelations of U.S. surveillance of Ms. Merkel's phone and of NSA's monitoring of telephone call data in France. [...]
The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn't have been practical to brief him on all of them.
It might be helpful, in fact, for some of those congressional leaders to start having real, public hearings in which they could just possibly pre-empt further internationally embarrassing disclosures like this one. Not that there's not plenty for the U.S. to be embarrassed about internationally, but it would be nice if that negative focus could all be on Republicans.