John Kerry: NSA was on 'auto pilot' and went 'too far'
US Secretary of State is most senior White House figure to admit agency's spying crossed a line
US Secretary of State John Kerry has admitted that the National Security Agency (NSA) went "too far" in some of its surveillance operations and promised that such behaviour will be terminated.
Speaking to an international summit in London via video link, Kerry said the NSA had been operating on "automatic pilot", rather than under the full control of the US government, Sky News reports.
"There is no question that the president and I and others in government have, actually, learned of some things that have been happening in many ways on automatic pilot, because the technology is there and the ability has been there [to eavesdrop]," Kerry told the conference. "I acknowledge, as has the president, some of these actions have reached too far, and we are going to make sure that does not happen again in the future."
Kerry is the "most senior" member of the Obama administration to comment directly on the furore unleashed by revelations of mass surveillance by the NSA, says BBC.
US news agency UPI agrees and says the Secretary of State's remarks are significant because, although President Obama has promised a review of US surveillance, he has not said it went too far.
Kerry insisted that US spying had saved lives and stated that "innocent people are not being abused in this process".
"We have actually prevented airplanes from going down, buildings from being blown up, people from being assassinated because we've been able to learn ahead of time of the plans," he said.
But the fact the Secretary of State is travelling to Europe and the Middle East next week is an acknowledgement that the US is anxious to "repair damage caused by reports of US eavesdropping on its allies", UPI says.
Kerry's remarks came as Australia was drawn into the US spying scandal by a report in the Sydney Morning Herald based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, which claims Australian embassies in Asia were part of a "US-led spying network".
Indonesia has summoned Australia's ambassador over the claims its diplomatic posts were being used to intercept phone calls and data. The diplomatic posts involved included those in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, amongst others, the SMH report said. ·