US intelligence services alleged to have tapped Angela Merkel’s phone
German leader demands clarification from US president Barack Obama
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German government has obtained information that the United States may have monitored her mobile phone. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters
German chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman confirmed last night that Berlin had received information that her mobile phone had been tapped for years by US intelligence services.
Dr Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the German leader, after hearing the news, telephoned US president Barack Obama demanding clarification.
“She made clear she condemns and views such practices as completely unacceptable, if the information turns out to be true,” said Mr Seibert in a statement.
“Such surveillance of a government leader cannot take place among close friends and partners, such as Germany and the US have been for decades. This would be a grave breach of trust. Such practices would have to be halted immediately.”
The German leader told Mr Obama she expected full answers about this and other allegations of US eavesdropping in Europe.
As a close partner of the US, Dr Merkel said she expected a “clear treaty basis” governing the activity of their respective intelligence services and their co-operation in future.
The information, apparently the result of research by Der Spiegel, prompted a swift reaction from Washington.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Council told the magazine that Mr Obama had “assured the chancellor that the US did not and would not intercept her communications”.
The spokeswoman declined to say whether this also applied to the past; German sources indicated that this may have been the indication from the information they received.
The German leader is a passionate mobile phone user, governing by text message and signing all her missives “am”. She uses an encrypted mobile phone, although it is unlikely that many of her call and text recipients do not.
The news broke as Us secretary of state John Kerry, on a visit to Rome, faced fresh questions about mass spying on European allies, based on revelations from Edward Snowden, the fugitive ex-US intelligence operative granted asylum in Russia.
French president François Hollande is pressing for the US spying issue to be put on the agenda of a summit of European leaders today. French newspaper Le Monde reported earlier this week that the National Security Agency had collected tens of thousands of French phone records.
Just four months ago, Mr Obama defended US anti-terrorism tactics on a visit to Berlin, telling Germans at a news conference with Dr Merkel that Washington was not spying on ordinary citizens.
Revelations before the trip of a covert US internet surveillance programme, code-named Prism, caused outrage in a country where memories of the eavesdropping East German Stasi secret police are still fresh. – (Additional reporting Reuters)