The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the National Security Agency has continued to spy on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and may have recorded private conversations between Israeli leaders and members of the U.S. Congress.
President Obama promised to end the surveillance on world leaders who are U.S. allies but Obama wanted to continue surveilling some world leaders, including Netanyahu.
The original reason for the stepped up surveillance of Netanyahu, according to the WSJ, was the fear that he would "strike Iran without warning." By 2013, that fear had dissipated. The administration then became concerned about the Iran nuclear deal that was being negotiated. U.S. officials believed that the Israelis were spying on the negotiations and would try to scuttle the deal, the report said.
Further, the Journal reports that intercepted conversations between Israeli leaders confirmed Israel's knowledge of the talks, as well as its intent to undermine any nuclear deal with Iran by leaking its details. When Netanyahu and his top aides came to Washington to talk with Jewish-American groups and members of Congress to lobby against the deal, the NSA was there to pick up the conversations.
Senior officials said the conversations collected raised fears "that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress."
The White House wanted the information anyway, saying they "believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu's campaign."
National Security Council Spokesman Ned Price said, "[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."