Germany and France want Washington to sign a no-spy deal. Whilst in Brussels on Friday, President Basescu said that it is very hard to turn intelligence agents into ‘nuns’; Romania supports the initiative of Paris and Berlin.
BERLIN / WASHINGTON – The US has been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone since 2002, according to a report in Der Spiegel magazine, the BBC reports. The German publication claims to have seen secret documents from the National Security Agency which show Mrs Merkel’s number on a list dating from 2002 – before she became chancellor. Another report says Mr Obama was told in 2010 about the surveillance.
Meanwhile Washington has seen a protest against the NSA’s spying programme. Several thousand protesters marched to the US Capitol to demand a limit to the surveillance. Some of them held banners in support of the fugitive former contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the extent of the NSA’s activities.
According to CNN, Germany is sending senior intelligence officials to Washington, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Saturday, amid outrage over claims the U.S. National Security Agency monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. Among them will be the heads of Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence services and the coordinator of the federal intelligence services, the government’s press office said.
Asked about these claims, U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said her agency does not “comment publicly on every specific intelligence activity.” “And, as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” said Hayden, echoing comments she and others have made in recent days.
The German government’s deputy spokesman said Friday that its officials heading to Washington would seek to push forward talks with the White House and the NSA as they seek more information about the alleged U.S. spying. The German representatives will be in the U.S. capital “very soon,” said the foreign ministry spokesman, who is not named in line with department policy.
Mrs Merkel phoned the US president when she first heard of the spying allegations on Wednesday. President Barack Obama apologised to the German chancellor and promised Mrs Merkel he knew nothing of the alleged phone monitoring and would have stopped it if he had, Der Spiegel reports. But on Sunday Bild newspaper quoted US intelligence sources as saying NSA head Keith Alexander personally briefed the president about the covert operation targeting Mrs Merkel in 2010. “Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,” the newspaper quoted a senior NSA official as saying. Her number was still on a surveillance list in 2013.
On Friday, Germany and France said they wanted the US to sign a no-spy deal by the end of the year. As well as the bugging of Mrs Merkel’s phone, there are claims the NSA has monitored millions of telephone calls made by German and French citizens. The documents seen by Der Spiegel give further details of the NSA’s targeting of European governments. A unit called Special Collection Services, based in the US embassy in Pariser Platz in Berlin, was responsible for monitoring communications in the German capital’s government quarter. If the existence of listening stations in US embassies were known, there would be “severe damage for the US’s relations with a foreign government,” the documents said. Similar units were based in around 80 locations worldwide, according to the documents seen by Der Spiegel, 19 of them in European cities.
The US government had a second German spy base in Frankfurt am Main, the magazine reports.
EU leaders said the allegations had raised “deep concerns” among Europeans and could affect the cooperation needed for effective intelligence gathering.
“A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field,” the leaders said in a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the European Council meeting.
Romania has joined the initiative of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to seek agreement with the US by the end of the year over the activity of the intelligence services, while talks to this end will be held in the period immediately ahead, Romania’s President Traian Basescu said Friday in Brussels.
‘We will discuss the matter in the upcoming period, but there is already in place a task force and I believe we should not complicate things. What I know for sure is that it is very hard to turn the intelligence guys into nuns. But we have to place them under control (…),’ Basescu said.