• Germany's news in English
 
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

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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany
Joachim Löw holding the World Cup trophy. File photo: DPA

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany

World Cup winners Germany have suffered something of a hangover since their triumph in Brazil, but coach Joachim Löw is hoping a new-look side can go on to claim more glory at Euro 2016. READ  

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges
Photo: DPA

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges

German mobile phone company T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $90 million to settle US government claims that it bilked customers with bogus charges, US regulators said Friday. READ  

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law
Photo: DPA

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law

The German Ethics Council said the law should not be changed to permit assisted suicide in a paper published on Friday. READ  

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin
Swan Lake. An abandoned ride in the Spreewald pleasure park. Photo: DPA

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin

The iconic ruined themepark in the centre of Berlin - a long-time favourite of hipster adventurers - needs a clean-up costing at least 14 million euros, the Berlin government has revealed. READ  

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer
File photo of Nuremberg main station: Shutterstock

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer

Officers in Nuremberg arrested a man on Thursday evening after he called in a false bomb threat against the main train station READ  

Opinion
Angela, David...and Nigel
So near...and yet so far Photo: DPA

Angela, David...and Nigel

The rise of UKIP broke up what had been a good 2014 for Cameron and Merkel. READ  

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead
Dr Gunther von Hagens. Photo: DPA

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead

A Berlin court has said that infamous human taxidermist Gunther von Hagens can open a museum in the capital - over objections from local officials. READ  

Presented by Phorms Education
Phorms bilingual schools boast top-notch tech
Photo: Phorms Education

Phorms bilingual schools boast top-notch tech

As parents fret over children’s internet habits, a network of bilingual schools in Germany shows that putting computers in the classroom from an early age yields positive results. READ  

Networks scramble to patch mobile security
Chancellor Angela Merkel has herself been the victim of phone hacking. Photo: DPA

Networks scramble to patch mobile security

IT experts led by Berlin-based Karsten Nohl said on Thursday they had discovered security flaws in the mobile phone networks that would allow attackers to read users' messages. READ  

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport
Photo: DPA

Turkish 'spies' arrested at Frankfurt airport

Three men suspected of being Turkish agents have been arrested by police, federal prosecutors said on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

3,228
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd