A leading U.S. newspaper says U.S. President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing that his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and that the program has now ended.
The Wall Street Journal, in a report Monday citing anonymous U.S. officials, says President Obama learned of the snooping after ordering an internal review a few months ago.
The newspaper account says the review uncovered the U.S. National Security Agency had tapped the phones of 35 world leaders, and that the NSA ended most of the program after the White House learned of the operation.
Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it would not have been practical to brief the president on all of them.
However, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag quoted an unnamed official of the NSA as saying President Obama received an NSA briefing in 2010, informing him that U.S. spies were monitoring Chancellor Merkel's mobile communications.
The NSA has since denied the president ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel.