• Germany edition
 
US ambassador: Merkel phone tap was stupid
US ambassador to Germany, John Emerson. Photo: DPA

US ambassador: Merkel phone tap was stupid

Published: 05 Feb 2014 11:16 GMT+01:00

In a speech to Berlin business leaders, the US ambassador to Germany, John Emerson, criticized the tapping of Merkel's mobile phone by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

When answering a question from the audience about immigration restrictions he said: “We [the US] have done a number of stupid things, Chancellor Merkel’s phone being one of them.”

During his 30-minute speech to Berlin trade association VBKI at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Emerson praised Germany as a “role model” for the rest of the world.

He said the problems facing Germany and the US today could be measured in “megabytes” rather than “megatonnes” as during the Cold War.

Speaking about Germany’s reaction to the mass surveillance programme conducted by the NSA and revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, he said: “I fully understand the stress that has been caused in Germany.

“I understand the differences in the experiences of the German people and the recent experiences of Americans, as well as the impact that these different experiences have had on our respective attitudes to intelligence gathering.”

The former banker told his audience that German concerns were being “taken very seriously” at the highest levels of American government.

“Fully rebuilding trust is going to take sincere effort and a long time,” he added. “Discussions continue to be ongoing between senior levels of our respective intelligence services.”

“It is essential that we rebuild the trust that has been shaken,” he said. “Friends can disappoint one another. When it does occur friends work hard to get through it.

“We will get through this because we must get through this.”

The ambassador, who took up his post in August, warned that Germany and the US were facing new types of threats than those of the Cold War, and that intelligence gathering had stopped attacks on German soil.

But the father-of-three admitted: “Listening to the Chancellor’s cell phone has nothing to do with that [stopping terrorist attacks].”

Emerson went on to refute claims made by former NSA contractor Snowden in a television interview last Monday that the NSA was engaged in industrial espionage against German firms.

“We don’t collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to US sectors,” he said. “We don’t steal trade secrets.”

Looking to the future of German-US relationships, the ambassador called on his audience to support the proposed trade pact (TTIP) between America and the European Union, which would create the world’s largest free trade zone.

Shortly after Emerson’s speech, it emerged that the NSA also allegedly targeted the phone of Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, over his lack of support for President George Bush for the Iraq War in 2002. 

READ MORE: US view of Germany 'better than ever'

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Tom Bristow (tom.bristow@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germany debates scrapping coal power
Photo: DPA

Germany debates scrapping coal power

After deciding to scrap nuclear power, Germany is pondering saying goodbye to coal, its biggest energy source but also its top polluter and main threat to ambitious climate goals. READ  

Hitler painting goes under the hammer
Photo: DPA

Hitler painting goes under the hammer

A watercolour painted by a young Adolf Hitler a century ago went under the hammer for €130,000 ($161,000) Saturday at an auction in the southern German city of Nuremberg. READ  

Germany to drop probe into US spying on Merkel
Photo: DPA

Germany to drop probe into US spying on Merkel

Germany is dropping a probe into the alleged tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone by US spies, due to a lack of evidence, magazine Focus said Saturday. READ  

German FM: Iran nuclear talks 'completely open'
Photo: DPA

German FM: Iran nuclear talks 'completely open'

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Saturday that the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with six world powers was "completely open". READ  

New bird flu case in Germany
Photo: DPA

New bird flu case in Germany

A worrying new strain of bird flu has been observed for the first time in a wild bird in northern Germany, the agriculture ministry said Saturday. READ  

Anti-foreigner protesters rally in Berlin
Photo: DPA

Anti-foreigner protesters rally in Berlin

About 500 protesters, among them neo-Nazis and angry local residents, protested in the German capital on Saturday against the construction of a centre for refugees seeking political asylum. READ  

Radicalized Germans join jihadist cause
Iraqi fighters near Tikrit. Photo: DPA

Radicalized Germans join jihadist cause

Hundreds of Germans have left their home country to fight alongside jihadists in Syria and Iraq, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. READ  

Germany frees female Russian spy early
Photo: DPA

Germany frees female Russian spy early

A Russian spy, jailed in Germany with her husband last year, has been freed early and allowed to return home, media reports said Friday, suggesting a possible prisoner swap. READ  

Germans face flogging after Singapore charge
Andreas Van Knorre being transported by Singapore police. Photo: Wallace Woon/DPA

Germans face flogging after Singapore charge

Two German men were charged Saturday with breaking into a Singapore metro depot and spray-painting graffiti on a train, offences punishable by jail time and flogging with a cane. READ  

Last-minute lawsuit filed over Nazi-era art hoard
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern. Photo: Gian Ehrenzeller/DPA

Last-minute lawsuit filed over Nazi-era art hoard

A relative of late German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt lodged a claim Friday for his inheritance, a Nazi-era art hoard which he has bequested to a Swiss museum, a spokesman said. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Win your Christmas list: €250 at Marks & Spencer
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Sponsored Article
Ever wanted to try out home exchange?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1989
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
National
Which city is the worst for car crashes?
Photo: DPA
National
The folly of the foreigner road charge
Photo: DPA
National
The man who stopped Germany's trains
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
How to replace retiring baby boomers
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Finger slicer's insurance scam fails
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Want to study in Germany? These are the subjects to choose
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
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

3,229
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
Click here for the full job description
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd