• Germany's news in English

Angry Germany demands answers over US spying

The Local · 30 Jun 2013, 18:52

Published: 30 Jun 2013 13:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Jun 2013 18:52 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The claims harked back to the Cold War, said Germany's justice minister, calling for an immediate explanation from the United States of a media report that Washington bugged European Union offices in Brussels and the US.

Even closer to home, US secret services keep tabs on around half a billion German telephone calls, emails and mobile phone messages a month, the report said, in a move likely to further ratchet up transatlantic tensions.

Merkel, who discussed earlier revelations of US Internet and phone surveillance programmes with the US president on his visit to Berlin this month, was told by Barack Obama that American spies were not "rifling" through the emails of German and French citizens.

But after the latest allegations reported by German news weekly Der Spiegel, Merkel's main opposition rival in September 22 elections called Sunday on the government to clarify as quickly as possible the claims.

"If the allegations should be confirmed, that would go far beyond legitimate security interests," Peer Steinbrück told Der Spiegel's website.

"This would mean that friends and partners were spied on. That would be completely unacceptable," the Social Democrat chancellor candidate said.

Germany had already reacted to revelations of US and British spy programmes, dubbed PRISM and Tempora, with particular alarm, given its dark history of state surveillance and secret police abuses under the Nazis and the communist East German regime.

"A constitutional democracy, which works with Stasi methods, makes itself highly implausible as a moral authority," Markus Ferber, who heads Merkel's Bavaria sister CSU party in the European Parliament, told Die Welt Online on Sunday, referring to East Germany's despised secret police.

The German government has written letters to both British and US authorities demanding answers over the programmes.

Berlin said Friday that Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague had insisted in talks with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle that London's data collection practices were fully legal.

Konstantin von Notz from the opposition Greens party demanded that Merkel immediately ensured full transparency and said the chancellor, who will seek to clinch a third term in the elections, was politically responsible "since secret service coordination lies in the chancellery".

"Further ducking behind platitudes by the chancellor is completely unacceptable," he told Spiegel Online.

Der Spiegel said its report, which detailed covert surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) on EU diplomatic missions, was based on confidential documents, some of which it had been able to consult via fugitive leaker Edward Snowden.

Snowden remains holed up at a Moscow airport and is wanted on spy charges in the United States.

Der Spiegel also cited figures from secret NSA documents showing that half a billion forms of communication -- phone calls, emails, text messages and Internet chat entries -- in Germany were monitored every month.

The NSA is more active in Germany than any other EU country, it claimed.

The metadata -- showing when a communication was made and with whom -- were saved at the agency's headquarters, it said, without going into the content.

Story continues below…

Economy Minister Philipp Rösler told the online edition of Die Welt that he assumed the aim of collecting the information was to fight terrorism but added that economic espionage was "at least one question that needs to be ruled out".

"It's beyond our imagination that our friends in the US consider the Europeans as enemies," Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said in a statement.

"If the media reports are accurate, it is reminiscent of actions among enemies during the Cold War."


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd