The Wall Street Journal reports that the widespread surveillance of residents of several European nations occurred with the facilitation of the countries themselves -- at least according to U.S. officials. The report emerged less than an hour before the head of the National Security Agency was due to testify before Congress on the agency's surveillance operations.
The massive scale of the data collection -- tens of millions of phone calls tracked in France and Spain -- elicited an outcry of opposition from those countries and activists in the United States. But now the Journal cites anonymous officials claiming that the NSA only analyzed phone data that had already been gathered by those countries' intelligence agencies.
The U.S. wants to correct the record about the extent of NSA spying but doing so in this case would require it to expose its allies' intelligence operations, which could compromise cooperation in the future as well as ongoing intelligence efforts.
U.S. officials said the Snowden-provided documents had been misinterpreted and actually show phone records that were collected by French and Spanish intelligence agencies, and then shared with the NSA, according to officials briefed on those discussions.