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POLITICS: PennAve

White House: NSA spying not 'significant' issue during Europe trip

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Politics,White House,PennAve,NSA,Surveillance,Meghashyam Mali,Foreign Policy

The White House said that concerns over the National Security Agency's surveillance practices had not “come up frequently” during President Obama's private discussions with European leaders during his trip abroad.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that the issue had been overshadowed by the crisis in Crimea and suggested that many of Obama's reforms had addressed European fears.

“To be completely candid, it has not come up frequently at all. … I’m not aware of it being a significant topic of discussion,” Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Rome with the president. “The fact of the matter is when we were here several months ago it was a much greater topic of discussion.”

“I think the combination of the fact that we have announced some reforms — we briefed our European allies on those reforms — ... it addresses a process that will allow for us to grant more protections to European citizens and European heads of states in terms of how we conduct surveillance,” he added.

“Then when you also factor in the fact that we're dealing with Ukraine it just hasn't been the same level of topic that it has been in the past,” said Rhodes.

The revelations from leaker Edward Snowden detailing the agency's collection of phone and internet metadata, including from foreign citizens, sparked international outrage.

Obama was forced to call German Chancellor Angela Merkel after Snowden disclosed that the NSA had monitored her communications as well as those of other world leaders.

In an interview in January, Obama told a German news outlet that he was committed to winning back the trust of Europeans and said the chancellor would “not have to worry” about the U.S. spying on her anymore.

The president announced a number of steps in January to rein in the NSA’s surveillance practices, including requiring special court approval for data requests and banning snooping on leaders of allied nations. Obama is also calling for phone companies to store metadata, as opposed to the federal government.

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