• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

White House 'ended NSA Merkel phone tapping'

The Local · 28 Oct 2013, 07:47

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.

Story continues below…

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
Man arrested in Wuppertal as part of Spanish Isis raids
Police detain the suspect in Wuppertal. Photo: DPA

Police have arrested five suspected members of an Isis cell in Spain, Belgium and Germany that spread propaganda for the group online, the Spanish interior ministry said Wednesday.

Germans cut home energy usage by six percent in a year
Hamburg at night. Photo: DPA

The Energiewende is the German government's ambitious policy of drastically reducing carbon emissions. New figures show one remarkable success.

Merkel party MP under fire for using Nazi propaganda term
Bettina Kudla. Photo: Büro Bettina Kudla MdB/DPA.

A member of Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party is in hot water after tweeting over the weekend a Nazi propaganda term in her criticism of the country’s refugee policies.

Govt denies planning bailout for troubled Deutsche Bank
Photo: DPA

Germany's finance ministry on Wednesday said the government was "not preparing rescue plans" for Deutsche Bank, denying a newspaper report that state aid was being considered for the embattled lender.

Munich at high risk of housing bubble: report
A view of Munich. Photo: Pexels.com

Considering buying property in Munich? This report might make you think twice.

After fatal hail storm, south Germany set to see sun
The hail storm in Baden-Württemberg on Monday night left the streets looking like a winter landscape. Photo: DPA.

A hail storm in southwest Germany on Monday night led to the death of one woman, but forecasters predict a bit more sun in the days to come.

Police shoot dead father who attacked daughter's abuser
Police at the scene of the shooting in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

Berlin police on Tuesday night shot and killed the father of a young girl at a refugee home as he tried to attack a man who allegedly sexually abused his daughter.

TV celebrity criticized for claiming 70 kg is overweight
Sophie Thomalla. Photo: DPA

Model Sophie Thomalla claimed that promoting models who weigh over 70 kg sets as dangerous an example as skinny supermodels.

UK files show how Spanish spy tricked Nazis over D-Day
Photo: DPA

Secret files released in Britain Wednesday shed new light on how a Spaniard dubbed the greatest double agent of World War II tricked Germany with false intelligence about the D-Day Normandy landings.

Pegida take to Dresden streets - to march against Pegida
Pegida demonstrators. Photo: DPA

Followers of the xenophobic Pegida movement marched in two factions on Monday evening in the capital of Saxony, brandishing fierce accusations of treason against one another.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
6,591
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd