Angela Merkel demands progress on no-spy deal between Europe and the US
German chancellor continues to use Nokia 6210 phone allegedly tapped by NSA
German newspapers with front page photos referring to the NSA eavesdropping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Chancellor Angela Merkel is still using the mobile reportedly tapped by US intelligence: a standard, unencrypted device paid for by her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The German leader declined to back calls at today’s Brussels summit to suspend EU-US trade talks and instead demanded swift progress on a no-spy agreement between Europe and the US. In a clear message to Washington, however, she warned that “mistrust complicates joint work”.
Dr Merkel said she has always used two phones as chancellor – a regular phone and an official, encrypted device. She kept the regular CDU-financed phone out of concern that she would be accused of conducting party political business at taxpayer expense.
“All state relevant communication is conducted over the other [encrypted] mobile,” she told journalists in Brussels. “But dividing between party and government business is often very, very difficult. That’s why in 2005, because of the overlap, I decided for a party-financed [phone].”
Her spokesman confirmed to The Irish Times today that the German leader is still using the same Nokia 6210 phone she has used since 2009 – the device allegedly tapped by the National Security Agency (NSA).
The German leader insisted she would not change her communication behaviour as a result of the claims.
“I have . . . a consistent logic in my conversations therefore, I think, everyone who talks with me basically always hears the same thing,” Dr Merkel told journalists in Brussels at the EU summit.
She insisted there was no firm proof that one of her phones had been tapped, saying only that there were “strong indications” that this was the case.
“We have to speak in the conditional tense,” she said. “We have no confirmation but also no denial. Therefore we simply have to say: I take note that there is no spying at the moment or in the future. Beyond that I don’t want to talk about the various possibilities [of spying] on mobile phones.”
It was “no coincidence”, she said, that non-encrypted phones were more often targeted than encrypted mobile phones. But instead of dwelling on what may have happened in the past, the German leader called on measures to restore trust between the US and Europe.
Top of her list is a treaty that rules out mutual spying of heads of state and government – and common standards for observation of regular citizens.
“Europe and the US are partners, a partnership that must be built on trust and respect and this includes, of course, the work of our respective [intelligence] services,” she said. “Mistrust doesn’t make this work easier.”
She said Germany and France had presented a proposal to other member states to agree with the US a basis for co-operation between intelligence services in their respective countries.
The German leader was cool on Brussels talk of suspending EU-US trade talks until Washington provides answers on its spy activities, saying that “whoever leaves the room has to always know how they get back in again”.
Meanwhile in Berlin, speculation continues about just how the NSA allegedly tapped into her mobile communications. A government spokesman declined to comment on reports that access was gained via a so-called “Trojan horse”, a malicious programme similar to a computer virus.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that attention has focused on the US embassy in Berlin, located beside the Brandenburg Gate, a short distance from the Reichstag and Dr Merkel’s office.
According to the newspaper, German security services are examining whether the embassy hosts special antenna to intercept mobile phone communications.