• Germany edition
 
White House 'ended NSA Merkel phone tapping'
Photo: DPA

White House 'ended NSA Merkel phone tapping'

Published: 28 Oct 2013 07:47 GMT+01:00
Updated: 28 Oct 2013 07:47 GMT+01:00

The United States flatly denied on Sunday that President Barack Obama had been informed years ago that US spy agencies were monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone calls.

German media reported that eavesdropping on Merkel's phone may have started in 2002, when she was Germany's main opposition leader and three years before she became chancellor.

The National Security Agency (NSA) stopped spying on Merkel after the White House learned of the snooping in an internal mid-year review, the Wall Street

Journal reported Monday, the first public acknowledgement that there was US eavesdropping.

The review, which the president ordered in August, showed that the NSA had tapped the phones of some 35 world leaders. The White House ended programs

tracking several of the leaders including Merkel, according to the Journal.

That report contradicts US intelligence sources which told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper that NSA chief General Keith Alexander had briefed Obama on the operation against Merkel in 2010.

"Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue," an unnamed high-ranking NSA official told the newspaper.

Documents leaked by fugitive US defense contractor Edward Snowden showed that Merkel's phone had appeared on a list of spying targets for more than a decade, and was still under surveillance weeks before Obama visited Berlin in June, German news weekly Der Spiegel reported.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines however denied the Alexander briefing 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 on Sunday.

"News reports claiming otherwise are not true," she said.

According to the Journal, Obama was "briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection 'priorities,'" but deputies decided on specific intelligence targets because it would have been impractical to brief the president on all of eavesdropping operations.

"These decisions are made at NSA," the unnamed official told the Journal. "The president doesn't sign off on this stuff."

However ending a surveillance program is complicated because a world leader like Merkel may be communicating with another leader that Washington is monitoring, officials told the newspaper.

"Today's world is highly interconnected, and the flow of large amounts of data is unprecedented," National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden told AFP via e-mail. "That's why the president has directed us to review our surveillance capabilities, including when it comes to our closest foreign partners and allies."

The review is looking at intelligence gathering methods "to ensure that we properly account for the security concerns of our citizens and allies," privacy concerns, "and to ensure that our intelligence resources most effectively support our foreign policy and national security objectives," she said.

The leaked Snowden documents indicate that US spy agencies accessed the electronic communications of dozens of world leaders and possibly millions of foreign nationals.

Obama should "stop apologizing"

US lawmakers on Sunday sought to play down the scandal. Representative Peter King, a Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said Obama should "stop apologizing" about the NSA phone-tapping, claiming the programs had saved "thousands" of lives.

And House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a fellow Republican, told CNN: "The bigger news story here would be . . . if the United States intelligence services weren't trying to collect information that would protect US interests both (at) home and abroad."

Merkel confronted Obama over the allegations in a phone call on Wednesday, saying that if true it would be a "breach of trust".

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung saidon Sunday that Obama told Merkel in the call that he had been unaware of spying against her, while Spiegel said he

assured her that he would stop the operation at once.

Merkel's office declined to comment on what Obama said.

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

Bild said Obama wanted to be informed about Merkel, who has played a decisive role in the eurozone debt crisis and is seen as Europe's most

powerful leader.

As a result, the NSA stepped up its surveillance, targeting the mobile phone she uses to communicate with her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU)

party and her encrypted official device.

Bild said US agents monitored her conversations and her text messages, but that her secure office land line was out of reach.

According to the report, the NSA sent the intelligence gathered straight to the White House, bypassing the agency's headquarters.

Bild said Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schröder was also in the NSA's sights because of his opposition to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and his

close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Merkel's deputy spokesman Georg Streiter said Friday that "high-ranking government representatives" will soon travel to Washington to discuss the

spying allegations.

AFP/jcw

Follow us on Twitter @thelocalgermany

Like The Local Germany on Facebook

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Croatia extradites ex-top spy to Germany

Croatia extradites ex-top spy to Germany

Croatia extradited a former Yugoslav spy chief, Zdravko Mustac, to Germany on Thursday to face charges for the 1983 murder of a dissident on German soil. READ () »

German court jails Somali pirate for 12 years
An officer of the Lower Saxon Criminal Investigation Department (CID) securing evidence on the hijacked ship Marida Marguerite. Photo: DPA

German court jails Somali pirate for 12 years

A German court has sentenced a Somali pirate chief to 12 years in jail for hijacking a ship off the Horn of Africa and tormenting its crew during an eight-month ordeal. READ () »

New app helps clients find prostitutes
Photo: DPA

New app helps clients find prostitutes

While the German government is considering tightening prostitution laws, Berlin entrepreneurs have developed a smartphone app to connect sex-workers with clients. READ () »

Highs of 22C forecast for Easter weekend
Photo: DPA

Highs of 22C forecast for Easter weekend

The days running up to Easter may be cool and wet, but the holiday weekend should be a bit warmer for most of Germany, according to forecasters. READ () »

Berlin man must call himself a mother
The fight over the transgender man's right to be his child's official father has been raging since last year. Photo: DPA

Berlin man must call himself a mother

A transgender person who became the first man in Germany to give birth in March 2013 must be registered as the child's mother, a court has ruled after his year-long court battle to be named a father. READ () »

Study: rape convictions fall sharply
Photo: DPA

Study: rape convictions fall sharply

The chance of being convicted of rape in Germany has more than halved in the past two decades to fewer than one in ten, a major study revealed on Thursday. READ () »

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax
The tax privilege for investment income is unfair, says the SPD. Photo: DPA

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax

The centre-left half of Germany's coalition government has called for the old top rate of a 45-percent tax on investments to be brought back - to match standard income tax and fight the squeeze on middle incomes. READ () »

Customs find smuggled cash in every third car
Sniffing out the money. Photo: DPA

Customs find smuggled cash in every third car

The number of Germans smuggling large amounts of cash across the Swiss border into Germany rose dramatically last year. Customs officers said on Thursday they made a find in almost every third car they checked. READ () »

Crystal meth use hits record level
Crystal meth seized in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Crystal meth use hits record level

Consumption of crystal meth in Germany appears to have reached a record level, according to government figures published on Thursday. READ () »

Child's near death sparks row over refugee homes
Leonardo had to have a finger and toe amputated after staff refused to call an ambulance. Photo: DPA

Child's near death sparks row over refugee homes

A political row has broken out in Bavaria after an asylum seekers' home failed to help a toddler who almost died of meningitis. The case has raised concerns about the treatment of refugees in the state. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Rhineland
Elderly man taped €200,000 to his genitals
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
What's the unemployment rate in your area of Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Nine ways to celebrate Easter like a German
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
'The mafia has infiltrated every sector in Germany'
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
School kids hospitalized after 'porno' party
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The week in pictures: April 5th - April 11th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Advertisement:
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Munich's baby polar bears are finally named
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Hult International Business School
Sponsored Article
What they don't teach you at Business School
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo:ESL
Sponsored Article
How to integrate successfully in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,134
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd