BY JULIE PACE
AP WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT
EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — President Barack Obama is getting off the island.
In a rare move for him, the president planned a break in the middle of his Martha’s Vineyard vacation to return to Washington on Sunday night for unspecified meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and other advisers.
The White House has been cagey about why the president needs to be back in Washington for those discussions. Part of the decision appears aimed at countering criticism that Obama is spending two weeks on a resort island in the midst of so many foreign and domestic crises.
Yet those crises turned the first week of Obama’s vacation into a working holiday. He made on-camera statements on U.S. military action in Iraq and the clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. He called foreign leaders to discuss the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, as well as between Israel and Hamas.
“I think it’s fair to say there are, of course, ongoing complicated situations in the world, and that’s why you’ve seen the president stay engaged,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.
Obama is scheduled to return to Martha’s Vineyard on Tuesday and stay through next weekend.
Even though work has occupied much of Obama’s first week on vacation, he still found plenty of time to golf, go to the beach with his family and go out to dinner on the island. He hit the golf course one more time Sunday ahead of his departure, joining two aides and former NBA player Alonzo Mourning for an afternoon round.
Earlier in the week, Obama attended a birthday party for Democratic adviser Vernon Jordan’s wife, where he spent time with former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
That get-together between the former rivals-turned-partners added another complicated dynamic to Obama’s vacation. Just as Obama was arriving on Martha’s Vineyard, an interview with the former secretary of state was published in which she levied some of her sharpest criticism of Obama’s foreign policy.
Clinton later promised she and Obama would “hug it out” when they saw each other at Jordan’s party. No reporters were allowed in, so it’s not clear whether there was any hugging, but the White House said the president danced to nearly every song.
Germany’s foreign intelligence agency eavesdropped at least one telephone conversation of US Secretary of State John Kerry and spied on NATO ally Turkey since 2009, Der Spiegel newspaper revealed on Saturday.
Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) picked up the phone call “by accident” in 2013, the weekly newspaper reported in a pre-publication citing unnamed sources. Kerry was discussing the Middle East tensions between Israelis, Palestinians and Arab states in a satellite link, according to Der Spiegel.
The new revelation comes after German media – Daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and regional public broadcasters NDR and WDR – reported on Friday that BND intercepted at least one phone call made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The date of the call was not given and the media said that it was also picked up “by accident”.
The German media retrieved the information of the hacking from documents that were passed to the CIA by one of its moles inside the BND.
On Saturday Der Spiegel reported that Clinton’s call recorded was intercepted in 2012. Clinton was in talks with former UN chief Kofi Annan, who had just returned from negotiations in Syria and wanted to brief the former Secretary of State.
The NDR added on Friday that Clinton wasn’t the only one spied on as “apparently, phone calls by US politicians and from other friendly nations have been repeatedly recorded and submitted to the respective BND President as instructed”.
“The fact that the recording wasn’t deleted immediately was called ‘idiocy’ by a member of the government in Berlin,” NDR reported.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
In another leak, Der Spiegel also learned that BND has been spying on its NATO ally Turkey since 2009. No further details on the scale of surveillance were given. Sources confirmed the wiretapping to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, saying that it was essential for national security as there are many Turkish people living in Germany.
The government in Ankara says it intends to carefully investigate the Der Spiegel report.
“I am of the opinion that this needs to be taken seriously… Definitely, our government and foreign ministry will carry out the necessary research about the allegations in the magazine,” Mehmet Ali Sahin, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse.
According to Der Spiegel, the German government reviews its espionage program every four years but did not modify its priorities after the NSA scandal that deeply strained US-German relations last year.
The full version of the report will be published by Der Spiegel on Sunday.
In October, US whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information that Washington had conducted intensive spying operations including tapping phones of at least 35 heads of state, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel called US President Barack Obama over the issue, saying that if the revelations were proven to be true it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust,” Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said at the time.
The issue was brought up again in July when two US agents were unmasked, suspected of acting as double agents within the state security apparatus, and passing secrets to US intelligence contacts. In response to the espionage scandal Germany promptly expelled the Berlin CIA chief.
The new reports may escalate the growing political tension between the two states, key partners in the NATO military alliance.
Last month in an interview to German broadcaster ZDF Germany’s Chancellor said that Washington and Berlin have different perceptions of the role of the intelligence service.
“For me it is a sign that we have fundamentally different conceptions of the work of the intelligence services.”
“I can’t say in advance if [the measures we took] will have an effect, of course I hope something will change. But the important thing is to show how we view things… and it is not a co-operative partnership when such things take place.”
Germany’s foreign intelligence agency intercepted at least one phone call made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to German media reports. Her phone was tapped “accidentally” while she was on a US government plane.
Daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and regional public broadcasters NDR and WDR said they learned of the hacking from documents that were passed to the CIA by one of its moles inside the German intelligence network. It is unclear when Clinton’s phone call was intercepted, as no date was given.
The Federal Intelligence Service, known by its German acronym BND, picked up the call “by accident,” government sources told the media outlets. But the German officials deny systematic spying on the United States, and claim they have never intentionally eavesdropped on their NATO ally. “The fact that the recording wasn’t deleted immediately was called ‘idiocy’ by a member of the government in Berlin,” NDR reported.
Clinton wasn’t the only person whose phone calls the BND hacked. “[A]pparently, phone calls by US politicians and from other friendly nations have been repeatedly recorded and submitted to the respective BND President as instructed,” NDR wrote. The German Chancellery instructs such material to be deleted immediately, however. It’s an order dating back to last summer.
The CIA mole, identified only as Markus R., was arrested in July, the first of two suspected spies to be uncovered in Germany. The resulting scandal led Berlin to expel the US spy agency’s bureau chief from the country. The German double agent confessed to giving his American contact 218 secret documents over the course of two years. In return, he received more than $34,000.
Markus R. also passed along a copy of the Mission Statement of the Federal Government (APB) for the German Intelligence Service. The document specifies which topics the BND is to take care of and which countries are to be spied on. The 2009 mission statement does not list the United States, but does include another NATO country, according to NDR. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told Bild newspaper in July that Germany may scrap its decades-old policy of not spying on key NATO allies in response to the arrest of the 31-year-old double agent and the investigation into a second potential US spy. That man worked at the Federal Ministry of Defense, and the US has denied employing him.
One of the prime objectives for Markus R. was to gather information on Berlin’s investigation into the alleged spying by the US National Security Agency on Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German citizens.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
In October, the Guardian newspaper published an internal NSA memo sourced from whistleblower Edward Snowden, which revealed that at least 35 heads of state, including Merkel, had their phones tapped by American intelligence officials. The German chancellor called President Barack Obama over the issue, and demanded an explanation. She made clear to him that, if the information proved true, it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust,” Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said at the time.
Clinton visited Germany in July, just after Markus R. was arrested. On that trip, she sat down for an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine, and answered questions about the strained relationship between the US and Germany over the various spying scandals.
“Clearly, the surveillance on Chancellor Merkel’s phone was absolutely wrong. The president said that. I think that he made it very clear it was unacceptable,” Clinton said.
“I’m not in the government anymore, but I’m sorry,” she added.
The former secretary of state also stressed the need to prevent further tensions between the two countries.
“[W]e have to do a much better job in working together between Germany and the United States to sort out what the appropriate lines of cooperation are on intelligence and security,” Clinton said. “I think the cooperation is necessary for our security, but we don’t want to undermine it by raising doubts again and again.”
US officials, including current Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, have confronted Berlin over the tapping of Clinton’s cell phone, NDR reported. Kerry spoke with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, while McDonough broached the subject when visiting German Chancellery Minister Peter Altmaier.
The German government declined to comment to the three media outlets about the phone hacking, citing the ongoing investigations against Markus R.
The brutality that is ISIS has revealed itself in so many ways. Over the last week, ISIS has killed hundreds of Yazidi men while taking hundreds of women and children hostage.
It was reported by CNN on Wednesday night that 130 US “assessors” camped out to evaluate the situation on Mount Sinjar north of Mosul in northern Iraq. They were to determine over that 24 hour period how many Christians, Yazidis and Kurds are stranded on the mountain.
But this is not even the crux of the disaster. The issue at hand is that we and the world had an opportunity to prevent this from happening in late 2010, all of 2011 and most of 2012 during the so-called Arab Spring. Many, including me, recognized it for what it was: an opportunity for Islamists, under the guise of overthrowing Islamic dictatorships, to seize control of the media to spin their narrative of gaining their liberty and freedom from the yokes of suppression.
Obviously, our media and our government, led by Barry and the leaders of both parties, bought the lie hook, line and sinker. Since that time, bin Laden was killed, Egypt overthrew two governments, Libya overthrew Khaddafi and became a terrorist haven, Syria has been involved in a civil war where 170 THOUSAND people have died, the US, withdrew, uhh, abandoned Iraq, where ISIS has established a mini-caliphate and finally, US Ambassador Chris Stevens and four members of his security detail were assassinated on the 11th anniversary of the worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor on 09/11/2012.
Yet, Barry and his stooges all continue to insist the world is a better place since the US has drawn down its presence in the Middle East, that ISIS is a ragtag group of farmers and shopkeepers just an annoyance to the (failing) Iraqi government, which caused its problems by its lack of inclusiveness
Really? I guess it must be true because Barry said so, and of course, he wouldn’t lie to the American people for political reasons, would he?
Except for this. ISIS and its affiliates are committing barbaric, savage, inhuman, and evil acts of torture equal to or worse than any done by Hitler and the Nazis, Saddam and his thugs, Milosevic and his. They have raped, beaten, beheaded and crucified women and children, as well as men, for not submitting to ISIS’ will.
And Barry and the gang? Well, vacations from the world’s problems are priorities, of course. They have all worked so hard making the world a better place for humanity, haven’t they? In fact, Barry and his former SecState, Madame Hillary, attended a function at Vernon Jordan’s home for a job well-done.
I guess the ostrich-like act works well. Too bad Iraq and the entire Middle East are infernos. Maybe Barry needs a real wakeup call, like watching the entire Iraqi government be assassinated by ISIS under his watch.
But wait! In his warped thinking, they would deserve it. And it would be George Bush’s fault for not negotiating a SOFA before he left, even though there were three years to go after he left to get it done.
I just hope we don’t soon see American soldiers hanging on those crosses. Will the media give Barry a pass then? I pray not!
So much for the freaking Arab Spring.