Obama 'knew of Merkel spying since 2010'

2013-10-27 16:51
German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Odd Anderson, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Berlin - US President Barack Obama was personally informed of phone tapping against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which may have begun as early as 2002, German media reported on Sunday as a damaging espionage scandal widened.

Bild am Sonntag newspaper quoted US intelligence sources as saying that National Security Agency chief Keith Alexander had briefed Obama on the operation against Merkel in 2010.

"Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue," the newspaper quoted a high-ranking NSA official as saying.

News weekly Der Spiegel reported that leaked NSA documents showed that Merkel's phone had appeared on a list of spying targets since 2002, and was still under surveillance weeks before Obama visited Berlin in June.

As a sense of betrayal spread in many world capitals allegedly targeted by the NSA, European leaders are calling for a new deal with Washington on intelligence gathering that would maintain an essential alliance while keeping the fight against terrorism on track.

Germany will send its own spy chiefs to Washington soon to demand answers.

Meanwhile several thousand protesters gathered in Washington Saturday to push for new US legislation to curb the NSA's activities.

Swiss president Ueli Maurer warned that the scandal risked "undermining confidence between states".

"We don't know if we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg or if other governments are acting in the same ruthless manner," he told the Schweiz am Sonntag weekly.

Call to Obama

Merkel confronted Obama with the snooping allegations in a phone call on Wednesday saying that such spying would be a "breach of trust" between international partners.

The suspicion also prompted Berlin to summon the US ambassador - a highly unusual move between the close allies.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported without citing its sources that Obama had told Merkel during their call that he had been unaware of any spying against her.

Der Spiegel said he told her that if he had been informed of the operation he would have stopped it at once.

Other media reports said that Obama's National Security Advisor Susan Rice had also told German officials the president knew nothing of the spying.

Merkel's office declined to comment on what he told her during their conversation.

The White House has said it is not monitoring Merkel's phone calls and will not do so in future, but it has refused to say whether it did previously.

Two phones monitored

Bild am Sonntag said that Obama wanted to be informed in detail about Merkel, who has played a decisive role in the eurozone debt crisis and is widely seen as Europe's most powerful leader.

As a result, the report said, the NSA stepped up its surveillance of her communications, targeting not only the mobile phone she uses to conduct business for her conservative Christian Democratic Union party but also her encrypted official device.

Merkel only acquired the latter handset over the summer.

Bild said US intelligence specialists were then able to monitor the content of her conversations as well as text messages, which Merkel sends by the dozen each day to key associates.

Only the specially secured land line in her office was out of the reach of the NSA, which sent the intelligence gathered straight to the White House bypassing the agency's headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, according to the report.

Bild and Spiegel described a hive of spy activity on the fourth floor of the US embassy in central Berlin, a stone's throw from the government quarter, from which the United States kept tabs on Merkel and other German officials.

Spiegel cited a classified 2010 document indicating that US intelligence had 80 high-tech surveillance offices worldwide in cities including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt.

If the spying against Merkel began in 2002, it would mean the United States under then president George W. Bush targeted her while she was still the country's chief opposition leader, three years before she became chancellor.

Bild said Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schroeder was also in the NSA's sights because of his vocal opposition to the US invasion of Iraq and close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Apologise

As anger simmered in Berlin, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich sharpened his tone.

"Surveillance is a crime and those responsible must be brought to justice," he told Bild.

A poll for the newspaper found that 76% of Germans believe Obama should apologise for the alleged spying on Merkel, and 60% said the scandal had damaged German-US ties.

The scandal derived from documents acquired from US fugitive defence contractor Edward Snowden by Spiegel.

The Social Democrats' chief whip Thomas Oppermann told Bild that German MPs would now like to question Snowden.

"Snowden's accounts seem credible while the US government apparently lied to us about this matter."

Read more on:    nsa  |  barack obama  |  edward snowden  |  angela merkel  |  us  |  germany  |  privacy

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
9 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.