US spied on '60 million phone calls' in Spain in one month

Latest allegation against US National Security Agency centres on its operations in Spain

An aerial view taken shows cleaning works at the US embassy in Berlin. Photograph: Reuters/Euroluftbild.de/Robert Grahn

An aerial view taken shows cleaning works at the US embassy in Berlin. Photograph: Reuters/Euroluftbild.de/Robert Grahn

 

The US National Security Agency spied on more than 60 million phone calls in Spain in one month alone, according to a document published by a Spanish newspaper.

The report in El Mundo comes a week after Le Monde reported similar allegations of US spying in France, and German magazine Der Spiegel reported that a document shows that Washington tapped chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

El Mundo said that a document provided by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shows that the NSA monitored the phone calls from December 10th, 2012 until January 8th, 2013 but not their content.

Meanwhile a German newspaper said yesterday that US president Barack Obama knew his intelligence service was eavesdropping on Dr Merkel as long ago as 2010, contradicting reports that he had told the German leader he did not know.

Germany received information this week that the NSA had bugged Dr Merkel’s mobile phone, prompting Berlin to summon the US ambassador, a move unprecedented in post-war relations between the close allies.

The NSA denied that Mr Obama had been informed about the operation by the NSA chief in 2010, as reported by the German newspaper. But the agency did not comment directly on whether Mr Obama knew about the bugging of Dr Merkel’s phone.

Both the White House and the German government declined comment. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the NSA ended the program that involved Merkel after the operation was uncovered in an Obama administration review that began this summer. The NSA was not immediately available for comment on the report.

The program also involved as many as 35 other world leaders, some of whom were still being monitored, according to the WSJ report, which was attributed to US officials.

Citing a source in Dr Merkel’s office, some German media have reported that

Mr Obama apologised to Dr Merkel when she called him on Wednesday, and told her that he would have stopped the bugging happening had he known about it.

But Bild am Sonntag, citing a “US intelligence worker involved in the NSA operation against Merkel”, said NSA chief General Keith Alexander informed Obama in person about it in 2010.

“Obama didn’t stop the operation back then but let it continue,” the mass-market paper quoted the source as saying. The NSA said, however, that Gen Alexander had never discussed any intelligence operations involving Dr Merkel with

Mr Obama.

“(General) Alexander did not discuss with president Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel”, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said in an emailed statement. “News reports claiming otherwise are not true.”

Bild am Sonntag said Mr Obama in fact wanted more material on Dr 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. 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.

Bild said the NSA had increased its surveillance, including the contents of Dr 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 continued into the “recent past”.

The NSA first eavesdropped on Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder after he refused to support president George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and was extended when Dr Merkel took over in 2005, the paper said.

Eighteen NSA staff working in the US embassy, some 800 metres (yards) from Dr Merkel’s office, sent their findings straight to the White House, rather than to NSA headquarters, the paper said.

Only Dr Merkel’s encrypted landline in her office in the chancellery had not been tapped, it added. Bild said some NSA officials were becoming annoyed with the White House for creating the impression that US spies had gone beyond what they had been ordered to do.

Agencies