Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has told a House committee that discerning foreign leaders’ intentions is a key goal of US spying operations.
James Clapper described such efforts as a “top tenet” of US intelligence policy.
However, he told the House intelligence panel the US did not “indiscriminately” spy on other nations.
James Clapper was reacting to a growing international row over reports the US eavesdropped on foreign allies.
“Leadership intentions is kind of a basic tenet of what we collect and analyze,” he said, adding that foreign allies spy on US officials and intelligence agencies as a matter of routine.
Also testifying before the House intelligence committee on Tuesday was NSA Director General Keith Alexander, who called media reports in France, Spain and Italy that the NSA collected millions of telephone calls “completely false”.
The information “that lead people to believe that the NSA or United States collected that information is false, and it’s false that it was collected on European citizens,” he added.
“It was neither.”
Tuesday’s hearing followed calls by US Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein to end eavesdropping on leaders of the nation’s allies.
Dianne Feinstein said the White House had told her such surveillance would stop.
President Barack Obama has faced significant criticism over reports he was unaware of the extent of the spying.