USA TODAY - The National Security Agency Sunday denied German media reports that President Obama was told in 2010 of NSA spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and allowed it to continue.
On Sunday, the German tabloid Bild am Sonntag, citing unnamed intelligence sources, reported that Obama was told by Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, in 2010 that Merkel's phone was being tapped and that Obama allowed it to continue.
Another report, this time in the German magazineDer Spiegel, said the NSA first started tapping Merkel's cellphone in 2002 when she was leader of the German opposition party.
"Gen. Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel. News reports claiming otherwise are not true." NSA spokeswoman Vanee' Vines said in a statement.
Also on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA stopped a program that intercepted the communications of Merkel and other European leaders after an internal White House review informed this summer President Obama of the extent of the surveillance, the Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday.
The report, which cited unnamed U.S. officials, followed a day of upheaval in Europe, as German and French officials criticized the United States for the alleged extent of the NSA surveillance, which was reported in several European publications.
Obama got support Sunday from Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He called the reports that the United States has eavesdropped on millions of phone calls of French citizens are "100% wrong.''
Leaked information about surveillance by the NSA is being "misinterpreted,'' Rogers said on CNN's State of the Union. "This was about a counterterrorism program that had nothing to do with French citizens,'' he said. "If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks.''
Rogers called criticism of the U.S. intelligence operations from European leaders "disingenuous.''
"It's a good thing. It keeps the French safe, it keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European allies safe. This whole notion that we're going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interests I think is disingenuous.''
The revelations all stem from documents reportedly taken by Edward Snowden, a former worker for an NSA contractor. French newspapers have reported, based on information from Snowden, that the NSA was eavesdropping on 3 million phone calls a day in France. Snowden now lives in Russia.
Rogers defended the right of the United States to conduct intelligence operations involving its allies. "Sometimes our friends have relationships with our adversaries,'' he said. "We need to be respectful and we need to be accurate, it needs to be overseen … but we should collect information that is helpful to the United States' interests.''
"The bigger news story here would be if the United States intelligence services weren't trying to collect information that would protect U.S. interests both home and abroad,'' Rogers said.
The NSA, which is based in Fort Meade, Md., is detailed with monitoring communications overseas and does not track the domestic communications of U.S. citizens.
Rogers also said that European governments have less oversight of their own intelligence agencies than does the United States, suggesting that European intelligence agencies may be trying to return the favor and eavesdrop on U.S. elected officials.
"There's a reason the president of the United States' Blackberry is encrypted,'' Rogers said. "I think they would be enlightened to find out what their intelligence services may or may not be doing in the interests of their own national security.''
Contributing: David Jackson