Anger over the United States spying on European leaders has culminated in US president Barack Obama announcing a review into the operations of the National Security Agency.
Anger over the United States spying on European leaders has culminated in US president Barack Obama announcing a review into the operations of the National Security Agency
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Ex-US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has fuelled the mistrust with continuing leaks suggesting the Americans have spied on France, Brazil, Germany, Mexico and Spain.
The agency has repeatedly denied the reports, but has admitted European intelligence agencies have gathered information, then shared it with the agency.
Reports out of Germany that the United States has bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone for over a decade have embarrassed the Obama Administration.
That has led President Barack Obama to announce a review into the US National Security Agency, deemed to have done the bugging.
"The national-security operations generally have one purpose, and that is to make sure that the American people are safe and that I'm making good decisions. And I'm the final user of all the intelligence that they gather. But they're involved in a whole wide range of issues. And we give them policy direction, but what we've seen over the last several years is their capacities continue to develop and expand, and that's why I'm initiating now a review (because) what they're able to do doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing."
Former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Coleen Rowley says a review is needed.
But she says it needs to be done separately from the Obama Administration.
"I think Obama's good to call for a review, but it cannot be his hand-selected people. It has to be an independent review by people, you know, some Congresspersons probably, but other independent people."
Ms Rowley says changes are needed because the current arrangements are too loose and open to being abused.
"The reform is needed, because we need to inject judiciousness and carefulness into this system. When people don't think that they will ever be found out, that nothing that they're doing will ever be seeing the light of day, then they simply, at the very least, become reckless. Not necessarily that they're badly motivated, but they actually can become sloppy and reckless. I think that's probably already happened."
The US House of Representatives' intelligence committee has heard learning what foreign leaders are thinking and how they want to act is a key goal for US intelligence.
National Intelligence director James Clapper told a hearing that identifying leaders' intentions is a basic tenet of what is collected and analysed.
"It's one of the first things I learned in intel (intelligence) school in 1963, that a fundamental given in the intelligence business is leadership intentions, no matter what level you're talking about. That can be military leaders as well."
While the United States has been spying extensively on European leaders, it remains unclear whether the same thing has been done in Australia.
The United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have a long-standing agreement not to spy on each other.
Coleen Rowley, the former FBI agent, says she would not be surprised if the United States has violated that agreement.
"This would just be an educated guess, but my educated guess is that the US would not necessarily be keeping its part of the agreement not to spy even on the so-called Anglosphere, I think it's called, the four English-speaking countries."
Whether anything will change in the short term is unclear.
The head of the US Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, has called for an end to the eavesdropping.
She says the White House gave her a commitment it would stop it.
But in his most recent interview, Barack Obama made no commitment to that effect.