Barack Obama has been accused of personally authorizing the tapping of Angela Merkel’s phone over three years ago. The president allegedly allowed US intelligence to listen to calls from the German Chancellor’s mobile phone after he was briefed on the operation by Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), in 2010.
“Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,” the German newspaper Bild quoted a senior NSA official as saying.
According to the German media reports, it was unveiled that the US has been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone since 2002. In fact, the NSA monitoring of the chancellor included the content of her SMS messages, as well as telephone calls.
The German publication claims to have seen secret documents from the National Security Agency, which shows Mrs. Merkel’s number on a list dating from 2002 – before she became chancellor.
Mrs. Merkel – an Americophile who was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 – is said to be shocked that Washington may have engaged in the sort of spying she had to endure growing up in Communist East Germany, says BBC News.
In an NSA’s Special Collection Service document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the U.S. embassy in Berlin, the exposure of which would lead to “grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government”.
Actually it was reported that US intelligence operates a global network of 80 electronic listening posts, including 19 in European cities, notably Paris, Berlin, Rome and Madrid, according to Spiegel, the German magazine. On Friday, Germany and France said they wanted the US to sign a no-spy deal by the end of the year.
However, NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines, in Washington, flatly denied the claims.
Alexander “did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel,” Vines said. “News reports claiming otherwise are not true,” she added.
Obama apologized to Merkel via the phone on Wednesday, after she called the President, and he was adamant that he would have stopped the bugging if he had known about it. Mr. Obama assured Mrs. Merkel that her phone is not being monitored now – and will not be in future. But the US has pointedly declined to discuss the NSA’s actions in the past.
Peter King, a fellow Republican congressman, said that Mr. Obama should not apologize for NSA operations in Europe. “The president should stop apologizing, stop being defensive,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“The reality is the NSA has saved thousands of lives not just in the United States but in France, Germany and throughout Europe. Quite frankly, the NSA has done so much for our country and so much for the president; he’s the commander in chief. He should stand with the NSA.”
The revelations about US spying on Mrs. Merkel have sparked outrage across the German political spectrum. Three quarters of Germans now believe President Obama should issue a personal apology to their leader, according to a poll. Meanwhile, 60 per cent of Germans say the eavesdropping affair strongly or very strongly damages US-German relations.
A delegation of German intelligence officials are due to arrive in the US to meet counterparts in the coming days. They are expected to demand clarity on the nature and scope of NSA activities in their country, reports the Guardian.