US President Barack Obama has called on the National Security Agency to halt spying on the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in conjunction with a review of surveillance activities, Reuters reported.
A US official told the news agency that President Obama curbed the spying within the last few weeks, around the same time he told the NSA to stop eavesdropping on the United Nations headquarters.
The NSA’s surveillance of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington was previously unknown based on the classified nature of such programs.
Responding to Reuters, another top Obama administration official said, “The United States is not conducting electronic surveillance targeting the headquarters of the World Bank or IMF in Washington.” However, the official would not say whether the NSA spied on the entities in the past.
The IMF and World Bank would not comment, nor would spokespersons from the NSA or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Top officials with US intelligence agencies have admitted economic espionage in the past, but a former senior US intelligence official said the Obama administration has put more effort than previous administrations into gathering economic data.
Upon entering the White House, Obama began receiving a new “Economic Intelligence Brief” from the Central Intelligence Agency, in addition to regular updates of international security assessments via the President’s Daily Brief.
The supposed reason for the change – according to Leon Panetta, Obama’s first CIA director, at the time – was to understand activity around the global economic crisis.
The move to curtail spying on the economic organizations followed steady revelations that began in June – supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – of NSA surveillance programs targeting foreign governments and institutions, as well as international and domestic citizens.