The White House and US State Department approved the surveillance of some foreign leaders, a media report claimed on Tuesday amidst official assertions that President Barack Obama was unaware of the spying operations.
In an investigative story, the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday said that the officials of National Security Agency are "angry" on the assertions being made by the White House that Obama was not aware about its surveillance of foreign leaders.
Based on the documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, media reports have said that the NSA tapped on the cellphone communications of foreign leaders of as many as 35 countries including that of Germany and France resulting in outrage in European countries.
According to the LA Times, precisely how the surveillance is conducted is unclear, but if a foreign leader is targeted for eavesdropping, the relevant US ambassador and the National Security Council staffer at the White House who deals with the country are given regular reports.
The daily said its report is based on interviews with two former senior intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing classified information.
Obama may not have been specifically briefed on NSA operations targeting a foreign leader's cell phone or email communications, one of the officials said.
"But certainly the National Security Council and senior people across the intelligence community knew exactly what was going on, and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous," the official was quoted as saying by the daily.
If US spying on key foreign leaders was news to the White House, current and former officials said, then White House officials have not been reading their briefing books.
"Some US intelligence officials said they were being blamed by the White House for conducting surveillance that was authorised under the law and utilised at the White House," the daily reported.
"People are furious," a senior intelligence official who would not be identified discussing classified information, told The LA Times.
"This is officially the White House cutting off the intelligence community," the official added.
Without going into specificity of foreign intelligence gathering, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday said that such intelligence activities have saved lives.
"The work that's being done here saves lives and protects the United States and protects our allies and protects Americans stationed in very dangerous places around the world," he said.
"So it should not be lost on anyone as we look at these issues -- and they're real and the concerns are understandable and merit being taken seriously -- that we remember the
purpose of these institutions and these programmes and the hard work that's done every day by those in the intelligence community who do this work on behalf of the American people," Carney said.
"There's little question in this room that -- or in kitchens and living rooms across the country -- that the work done by our intelligence community is done in order to keep the American people safe and to protect our allies and to protect our troops abroad."
"And that's important work indeed, and it is often work done without recognition, necessarily, because of the nature of the work, and noticed at times only when something terrible happens," he said.