U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the nation's surveillance activities went "too far" in some cases, and has promised that will not happen again.
Kerry, in Washington, made the comments Thursday by videolink to a conference in London.
Recent media reports that the National Security Agency was monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone calls - and those of other allies, have ignited anger overseas and in Washington. The reports were based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The Senate Intelligence committee Thursday approved legislation to tighten controls on what intelligence agencies can do with communications records. It imposes a five-year limit on how long those records can be retained.
The controversy has also made its way to Asia. Indonesia on Thursday summoned the Australian ambassador in Jakarta following reports indicating that Australia has allowed covert U.S. surveillance programs to operate in its embassies in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and East Timor.
Australian diplomat Greg Moriarty spoke with reporters following the meeting.
"I've just had a meeting with secretary-general," he said. "From my perspective it was a good meeting and now I have to go and report directly to my government. Thank you."
Indonesia's foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, had this to say:
"Well, we are obviously deeply concerned and it's something that we cannot accept. We have sought clarification, we have sought explanation, both from Australia side as well as the United States government on the reported facilities at their embassies in Jakarta," said Marty Natalegawa.
Media reports said also said that the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta was used for spying on its president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and other Indonesian leaders. They indicate the U.S. embassy houses wiretapping equipment that has been used to monitor other Indonesian leaders. The documents describe the facilities as carefully concealed within embassy compounds.
The Indonesian Foreign Ministry has summoned America's top diplomat in Jakarta to clarify allegations reported Thursday that the U.S. embassy in Jakarta may have been used to spy on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
On Wednesday, Internet search engines Google and Yahoo expressed dismay over reports the U.S. National Security Agency secretly broke into their communication networks.
In a statement, Google said it is "outraged" at the lengths to which the U.S. government seems to have gone to intercept data from Google's private networks, and said these reports underscore the need for urgent reform. Both Google and Yahoo said they have not authorized the alleged tapping of their communication links.
The new allegations of NSA activity follow a series of recent media revelations of U.S. surveillance activities targeting international leaders and institutions.