US denies Obama aware of Merkel spying.
WASHINGTON – The US National Security Agency (NSA) secretly monitored 60 million phone calls in Spain in one month, Spanish media say, according to the BBC. The reports say the latest allegations came from documents provided by the fugitive US analyst Edward Snowden. They say the NSA collected the numbers and locations of the caller and the recipient, but not the calls’ content. This comes as an EU parliamentary delegation is due to meet US officials in Washington to convey concerns. The officials from the European parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee will speak to members of Congress to gather information. It is not clear how the alleged surveillance was carried out, whether it was from monitoring fibre-optic cables, data (including metadata) obtained from telecoms companies, or other means.
Meanwhile, a Japanese news agency says that the NSA asked the Japanese government in 2011 to help it monitor fibre-optic cables carrying personal data through Japan, to the Asia-Pacific region. The reports, carried by the Kyodo news agency, say that this was intended to allow the US to spy on China – but Japan refused, citing legal restrictions and a shortage of personnel. The White House has so far declined to comment on Monday’s claims about US spying in Spain, published in the newspapers El Pais and El Mundo. It is alleged that the NSA tracked millions of phone calls, texts and emails from Spanish citizens between 10 December 2012 and 8 January this year. The US ambassador to Madrid has been summoned to meet a Spanish foreign ministry official later on Monday to discuss earlier allegations about US spying on Spanish citizens and politicians. It follows German media reports that the US was bugging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone for more than a decade – and that the surveillance only ended a few months ago. Mrs Merkel is sending her country’s top intelligence chiefs to Washington this week to “push forward” an investigation into the spying allegations, which have caused outrage in Germany.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Friday that the NSA had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders. Again Mr Snowden was the source of the report. The head of the European parliament delegation, British MEP Claude Moraes, told the BBC it was the scale of the NSA’s alleged surveillance that was worrying. “The headline news, that 35 leaders had their phones tapped, is not the real crux of the issue,” he said. “It really is the El Mundo type story, that millions of citizens of countries… had their landlines and other communications tapped. So it’s about mass surveillance. It’s about scale and proportionality.” He said a priority of the European mission was to discuss the impact of American spying on EU citizens’ fundamental right to privacy. The BBC’s Europe correspondent Chris Morris says that with every new allegation, demands are growing in Europe – and in Germany in particular – for explanations and for guarantees of a change in culture. EU leaders have said that distrust of the US over spying could harm the fight against terrorism.
National Security Agency (NSA) spokeswoman Valerie Vines denied on Sunday that President Obama had been told about the agency’s spying on Merkel. The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag (BAMS) had earlier reported that NSA chief Keith Alexander had personally told Obama about the eavesdropping. “Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed high-ranking NSA official as saying. Alexander “did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel,” Vines said in Washington. “News reports claiming otherwise are not true,” she added.