Lawbreaker! Obama Spies on U.S. Congress

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A bombshell new report in the Wall Street Journal could rock the Obama administration to its foundations. According to the report, President Obama’s National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for years. That alone might not be enough to cause an international incident, but the fact that many of Netanyahu’s conversations with U.S. lawmakers were caught up in the spying very well might spell the end of Obama’s presidency.

The reason for the spying? Obama was concerned that Netanyahu would strike a pre-emptive assault on Iranian nuclear facilities, thus ruining any chances of a deal. Once it became clear that wasn’t likely to happen, though, the NSA continued to spy on Netanyahu as he spoke to Congress about scrapping the deal through political means.

Obama was not unaware of how it would look if he was exposed as spying on Congress. Instead of barring the NSA from picking up these conversations, though – or at least refusing to read them – he chose a middle road that not even his most ardent defenders can spin. The compromise was that the NSA would spy, they would send relevant communications to Obama, and they would redact any criticism of his administration and block out the names of the lawmakers in question.

In January of last year, incidentally, Obama said he was going to stop spying on foreign leaders altogether. “The leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue, I’ll pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.”

Over the last couple of years, many have wondered why Obama did not reach out to Netanyahu with regular talks; apparently he didn’t need to.

As said, this would have been a minor scandal – if a scandal at all – if the spying did not extend to Congress. When one senior U.S. official realized how badly the White House could be damaged by these revelations, he called it an “Oh sh**” moment, a phrase that will almost certainly live in infamy if this story plays out the way it should.

Hearing the story on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz said that the Obama administration “views Congress, Republicans, and sometimes even Democratic members of Congress as their enemy.” He went on to say, “At times, it seems like they view the American people as their enemy.”

Will this scandal bring Obama down the way Nixon was brought down by Watergate? Or will Obama get a yet another free pass to treat American law like yesterday’s news?