American spy chiefs appear before House Intelligence Committee

October 29, 2013

U.S. spy chiefs attend hearing over snooping allegations, India blames Muslim militants for rally blasts, Chinese officials say Tiananmen crash may have been a suicide attack. Today is Tuesday, October 29, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A computer with a series of numbers and the logo of the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) is seen in this multiple exposure picture illustration taken in Frankfurt, October 28, 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Spy hearing starts. U.S. spy chiefs, including the NSA director, appear at a House Intelligence Committee hearing following a slew of accusations charging Washington with spying on European allies. The allegations are the latest stemming from documents revealed by wanted NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and have earned the White House much criticism abroad:

More than any previous disclosures from material given to journalists by Snowden, the reports of spying on close U.S. allies have forced the White House to promise reforms and even acknowledge that America’s electronic surveillance may have gone too far. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate’s intelligence committee, joined the ranks of critics on Monday, expressing outrage at U.S. intelligence collection on allies, and pique that her committee was not informed.

A senior Obama administration official said that the review could result in a ban on snooping on allied leaders. According to Feinstein, President Obama did not know that Merkel’s communications had been tracked since 2002, and the Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA stopped the program snooping on Merkel over the summer, when a government review of the program began. The program targeting Merkel also monitored – and in some cases continues to monitor – up to 35 other world leaders. Reuters columnist Jack Shafer argues that spying on allies is a long-held and largely harmless tradition. Below, see world leaders react to the spying scandal on Capitol Hill on Monday:

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Militants blamed for India blasts. Indian officials believe the Islamist militant group Indian Mujahideen, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2011, is responsible for Sunday’s attack on a rally for India’s Chief Minister of Gujarat and prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Indian security personnel carry an injured man after a bomb blast near a public ground where Gujarat’s chief minister and Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was to address a rally in the eastern Indian city of Patna, October 27, 2013. REUTERS/Krishna Murari Kishan

Seven crude bombs detonated while Modi was speaking, killing six and injuring 80 people  but leaving Modi untouched. Senior police official S.N. Pradhan said a suspect identified Tehseen Akhtar, 24, as the organizer of the attack. India’s National Investigation Agency is seeking the arrest of Akhtar for his connection to Sunday’s bombings, as well as with regard to previous attacks in Mumbai, Varanasi, and possibly Hyderabad in recent years. Muslim militants hold Modi, a Hindu nationalist, responsible for the deaths of 1,000 people, most of them Muslim, during riots in Gujarat in 2002.

Tiananmen attack probed. Chinese officials suspect that the three people who drove an SUV into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and set it on fire on Monday, killing themselves and two tourists and injuring 38 others, may have done so intentionally. If confirmed, it would be Beijing’s first major suicide attack.


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Police are searching for two men from Muslim-majority Xinjiang, who they suspect to be ethnic Uighur Muslims, in relation to the incident. Many Uighurs are upset by Chinese control over their culture and religion, and the country has blamed Uighur extremists for attacks in Xinjiang in the past.

Nota Bene: U.N. nuclear inspectors hold “very productive” talks with Iran.


Barbie world – Singapore man has a collection of 9,000 Barbie dolls. (BBC)

Book banners ban – Ireland’s book censorship board could be abolished soon. (The Guardian)

Pig trotter tab – A Chinese official ran a $115,000 pork tab over a three-year period. (Quartz)

Record rad – A Brazilian surfer may have set the record for biggest wave ever surfed. (The Telegraph)

An apple a day – Tanzanian officials urge residents to eat more fruit to fight malnutrition. (Al Jazeera)

From the File:

  • Russia lays new theft charges against opposition leader Navalny.
  • China’s top court urges judicial independence.
  • Polio outbreak in northeast Syria risks spreading: WHO.
  • Saudi Arabia frees man jailed for Mohammad tweets.
  • Vietnam court sentences Facebook campaigner to house arrest.
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