• 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
Updated: 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
Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?
Coming soon? Photo: DPA

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?

Berlin's bid to set up a free city-wide wireless network has so far come to nothing. But city bosses are now trying for a fourth time - and hope to have the project running next year. READ  

Opinion
Do German unions have too much power?
Lufthansa passengers rush to change their flights at Frankfurt Airport on Monday. Photo: DPA

Do German unions have too much power?

Germany's pilots and train drivers are taking it in turns to bring the country to a standstill with strikes that have cost the economy tens of millions of euros in the last two weeks. Are unions abusing their power or standing up for their rights? READ  

Older workers can have extra days off, court says
Photo: Workers in a German shoe factory. Photo: DPA

Older workers can have extra days off, court says

Older workers in Germany are allowed more time off than younger ones, a court ruled on Tuesday, saying the difference was not discriminatory. READ  

Expat's family battles for answers four years on
Matthew Fitzpatrick died in 2010 in Mannheim. Photo: Fitzpatrick family

Expat's family battles for answers four years on

In 2010 an Irish computer engineer was found dead in his apartment in Baden-Württemberg. Four years on, his family are still pressing the German justice system for answers. They feel badly let down by police who they say have refused to examine evidence of foul play. READ  

Court: Germany can keep arms deals secret
The judges of the Supreme Court announce their decision about weapons exports on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Court: Germany can keep arms deals secret

The government can keep arms deals secret and only tell the public about them after contracts have been signed, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. READ  

Tourist finds €7,500 instead of cheesecake

Tourist finds €7,500 instead of cheesecake

Just how honest would you have to be to return €7,500 that you found in a box supposed to contain your favourite cheesecake? READ  

Tanker fills up gas station with wrong fuel
Photo: DPA

Tanker fills up gas station with wrong fuel

Around 160 car owners are stuck after a gas station's storage tanks were filled with the wrong fuel, causing an estimated €100,000 in damage. READ  

Lufthansa strike hits 1,500 flights
Photo: DPA

Lufthansa strike hits 1,500 flights

UPDATE: In the second day of their strike, Lufthansa pilots have, as promised, extended their industrial action to include long-haul international flights until the end of Tuesday. READ  

Merkel tells allies to pay Ukraine's gas debts
Chancellor Angela Merkel in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Monday. Photo: DPA

Merkel tells allies to pay Ukraine's gas debts

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called on Ukraine's allies to help the war-scarred nation pay off its gas debts to Russia, amid concern over gas supplies this winter. READ  

Steinmeier wants epidemic task force
Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks at the World Health Summit in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Steinmeier wants epidemic task force

At the World Health Summit in Berlin, the Ebola crisis took centre stage at talks meant to create plans for how to handle future outbreaks. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Robbers blow up Berlin bank
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: Facebook
Society
German motorcycle gang joins Isis fight
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: World's biggest erotic fair opens in Berlin
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The ten richest people in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
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

Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd