Barack Obama knew US spies were aiming Germany’s Angela Merkel: reports – worldleaks
The spying row between Germany and America is deepening, with fresh reports that United States president Barack Obama knew his country was monitoring the German chancellor’s phone calls.
Germany got information last week that American spies had bugged Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, prompting Berlin to summon the US ambassador, a move unprecedented in post-war relations between the close allies.
German magazine Der Spiegel is now reporting the US had been spying on Ms Merkel’s phone calls since 2002, and that Mr Obama was told about the operation in 2010 but failed to stop it. However, America’s National Security Agency (NSA) denies Mr Obama knew about the spying.
“[NSA chief General Keith Alexander] did not talk about with president Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving chancellor Merkel,” spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines said.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment and reiterated the standard policy line that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.
AUDIO: Furore over US surveillance unsettles Washington (AM) The revelations about the NSA’s operations have infuriated European leaders and Germany plans to send its spy chiefs to Washington to demand answers.
Obama wanted ‘comprehensive dossier’ on Merkel: reports
Citing a source in Ms Merkel’s office, other German media have reported that Mr Obama apologised to Ms Merkel when she called him on Wednesday, and told her that he would have blocked the bugging happening had he known about it.
But German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, citing a “US intelligence worker involved in the NSA operation against Merkel”, said Mr Alexander informed Mr Obama in person about it in 2010.
“Obama didn’t stop the operation back then but let it continue,” the paper quoted the source as saying.
Bild am Sonntag said Mr Obama in fact wanted more material on Ms Merkel, and ordered the NSA to compile a “comprehensive dossier” on her.
“Obama, according to the NSA man, did not trust Merkel and wanted to know everything about the German,” the paper said.
The paper said the NSA had raised its surveillance, including the contents of Ms Merkel’s text messages and phone calls, on Mr Obama’s initiative and had started tapping a new, supposedly bug-proof mobile she acquired this summer, a sign the spying stayed into the “recent past”.
The NSA first eavesdropped on Ms Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder after he refused to back then-president George W Bush’s war in Iraq and continued when Ms Merkel took over in 2005, the paper said.
Eighteen NSA staff working in the US embassy, some 800 metres from Ms Merkel’s office, sent their findings straight to the White House, rather than to NSA headquarters, the paper said.
Only Ms Merkel’s encrypted landline in her office in the Chancellery had not been tapped, it added.
‘Grave breach of trust’
The rift over US surveillance activities first emerged earlier this year with reports that Washington had bugged European Union offices and tapped half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month
Bugging is a crime and those responsible for it must be held to account.German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich Ms Merkel’s government said in August, just weeks before a German election, that the US had given enough assurances it was complying with German law.
This week’s news has reignited criticism of the US surveillance, and Volker Kauder, head of Ms Merkel’s party in parliament, called it a “grave breach of trust” and said the US should stop its “global power demeanour”.
Mr Kauder, however, said he was against halting negotiations on a European free trade agreement with the US, a call made by Social Democrats and some of Merkel’s Bavarian allies. Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Bild am Sonntag: “Bugging is a crime and those responsible for it must be held to account.”
The Social Democrats, with whom Ms Merkel is applying talks to form a new government, have joined calls from two smaller opposition parties for a parliamentary investigation into the US surveillance, but Mr Kauder has rejected the idea. Congressman says NSA criticism is misguided
Meanwhile, a Republican congressman has defended America’s surveillance programs abroad, saying that the French would be celebrating if they knew what intelligence had been collected in their country.
The Head of the US House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers says stories that French citizens were spied on are 100 per cent wrong.
Last week the French president, Francois Hollande, expressed anger about media reports that thousands of his countrymen’s phone calls had been monitored by the NSA.
But Mr Rogers says the French would be popping champagne corks if they knew it was about counter-terrorism. He says many of the allegations against the NSA are misguided.
“They are seeing three or four pieces of a thousand-piece puzzle and trying to come to a conclusion,” he said on CNN.
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