The White House denied on Monday that the National Security Agency's widespread overseas spying is intended to give the U.S. an edge over allies who might also be economic competitors. But former Vice President Dick Cheney suggested to CNN that NSA snooping has been "enormously important" when it comes to "economic matters."
At his daily media briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked: "Can you assure our allies that the U.S. is not using the NSA's intelligence capabilities to promote American economic interests?"
"We do not use our intelligence capabilities for that purpose. We use it for security purposes," Carney insisted.
But the spokesman's comments appeared to be at odds with comments from Cheney, who suggested in an interview on CNN's "The Lead" airing on Monday that American spying has a wide range of applications.
"We do collect a lot of intelligence. Without speaking about any particular target or group of targets, that intelligence capability is enormously important to the United States, to our conduct in foreign policy, to defense matters, economic matters," Cheney said. "And I'm a strong supporter of it."
Cheney did not name the specific countries the NSA is spying on to seek advantage on the economic front. But U.S. allies in Europe worry Washington has been using its unmatched ability to ferret out secrets to give American negotiators and American firms an edge over their competitors.