The head of US intelligence has told lawmakers that discerning foreign leaders’ intentions is a key goal of the nation’s spying operations.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said such efforts were a “top tenet” of US intelligence policy.
But he told the intelligence panel of the House of Representatives the US did not “indiscriminately” spy on nations.
Mr 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 analyse,” Mr Clapper said, adding that foreign allies spy on US officials and intelligence agencies as a matter of routine.
He said that what he called the torrent of disclosures about American surveillance had been extremely damaging and that he anticipated more.
But he said there was no other country that had the magnitude of oversight that the US had, and that any mistakes that had been made were human or technical.