US ambassador to Germany summoned in Merkel mobile row


Steve Evans in Berlin: "The response in the morning papers has been blistering"

Germany has summoned the US ambassador in Berlin over claims that the US monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will meet US envoy John Emerson later in what is seen as an unusual step between close allies.

Mrs Merkel has demanded a "complete explanation" of the claims, which are threatening to overshadow an EU summit.

She discussed the issue with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

President Obama told Mrs Merkel the US was not monitoring her calls and would not in future, the White House said.

However, it left open the question of whether calls had been listened to in the past.

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It offends because Angela Merkel governs by her mobile phone - she is often seen to be checking it or even sending texts at political rallies”

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On Monday, France summoned the US ambassador over reports in Le Monde newspaper that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on millions of French phone calls. A day later, Le Monde reported that the NSA had spied on French diplomats in Washington and at the UN.

French President Francois Hollande had already called for the issue to be put on the agenda of the summit, where EU leaders are due to discuss Europe's digital economy, economic recovery and immigration.

Other leaders are also likely to want further clarification from Washington over the activities of its NSA in Europe, says BBC Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt.

'Completely unacceptable'

"It's really not on for friends to spy on each other," said Chancellor Merkel as she arrived at the EU summit in Brussels.

The German government has not said how it received the tip about the alleged US spying. But news magazine Der Spiegel, which has published stories based on material from former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, said the information had come from its investigations.

Press review

  • Germany's Berliner Zeitung regrets that "only now does the government appear to really understand what it is happening"
  • France's Le Figaro says the German government's reaction is "a warning shot directed at the United States"
  • The New York Times fears that there is mounting damage to "core American relationships"

State-monitoring of phone calls has a particular resonance in Germany - Mrs Merkel herself grew up in East Germany, where phone-tapping was pervasive.

Earlier, her spokesman said the German leader "views such practices... as completely unacceptable" and had demanded a "complete and comprehensive explanation".

"Among close friends and partners, as the Federal Republic of Germany and the US have been for decades, there should be no such monitoring of the communications of a head of government," said Steffen Seibert in a statement.

Gunther Krichbaum, the chairman of the European affairs committee in Germany's Bundestag, told the BBC that "if it turns out to be true this... is a real scandal".

Mr Krichbaum said he was convinced that he and his colleagues would "not go ahead" with negotiations over a major trade treaty with the US before finding out what had happened.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US "is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor".

He said the US was reviewing the way it gathered intelligence, to ensure that "we properly balance the security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share".

German ministers' phones have reportedly been protected using technology from security firm Secusmart since 2009. Secusmart said in March that German government officials would be issued with new, highly-secured technology made for Blackberry mobile phones.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama had "assured" Chancellor Merkel the US was not monitoring her phone

A German IT expert told the BBC that security services for many countries could have intercepted the chancellor's calls before she had full encryption.

A number of US allies have expressed anger over the Snowden-based spying allegations.

Veteran French European Commissioner Michel Barnier told the BBC on Thursday that "enough is enough", and that confidence in the US had been shaken.

Mr Barnier, the commissioner for internal market and services, said Europe must not be naive but develop its own strategic digital tools, such as a "European data cloud", independent of American oversight.

'No business as usual'

Germany's press echoed a sense of outrage, with a front-page commentary Sueddeutscher Zeitung - one of the country's most respected papers - referring to the "biggest possible affront".

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it would not be possible to go back to business as usual. This is more than a tiff which will blow over easily, the BBC's Stephen Evans reports from Berlin.

In July, German media carried comments by Mr Snowden suggesting the US NSA worked closely with Germany and other Western states on a "no questions asked" basis, monitoring German internet traffic, emails and phone calls.

"They [the NSA] are in bed with the Germans, just like with most other Western states," Mr Snowden was quoted as saying by Der Spiegel - though Mrs Merkel denied any knowledge of the collaboration.

President Obama had assured Chancellor Merkel in June that German citizens were not being routinely spied upon. At the time, she was criticised by her political opponents for not being more sceptical.

A Der Spiegel report in September that the US NSA had cracked the security codes the protect data on iPhones, Blackberries and Android devices led to demonstrations in Berlin.



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  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Just to fuel the paranoia, "they" are probably monitoring this article and may even be collecting data and profiling posters of comments! It shouldn't be too difficult for people with their undoubted skillsets to trace IP addresses and then determine your identity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Unless Angela Merkel is a terror suspect then how can the US justify spying on her. This is another example of how the Patriot Act has been used to justify criminal activities by the US government. Privacy is a personal right and if spying on our leaders is acceptable then surely we cannot object if the same happens to us the masses. I for one want to keep my privacy and condemn the US's behaviour

  • Comment number 392.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Summoning an envoy, who at best will just parrot Obama's lies is nowhere near enough. It is time to leave NATO and end diplomatic relations to the U.S. They are an undemocratic imperialistic-minded aggressor and do not deserve diplomatic recognition.
    Spying to reveal terrorists is one thing. Are they really trying to say Merkel is a potential terrorist?

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    I don't care if "they" (UK intelligence services) monitor which phone has called which other one. I do mind if they record my calls (it would reveal I'm pretty boring at times). Tracking call start and end points allows terrorist networks to be identified. It can't be done after the event can it? Many terrorists are stupid foot soldiers manipulated by others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Dominic Strauss-Kahn was spied and followed and ditched until the NSA was sure a socialist of that calibre was not a threat to Nikolas Sarkozy. However it ended up with Hollande. NSA wants Merkel out. She is too powerful for the White House.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    US tracks EU and UK tracks US. So nothing really new here. If there is a law against it circumvent the law. It has always been necessary to protect oneself against the evil in the world, and if it doesn't exist create It, then counter it. A Western philosophy to ensure you stay on top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.


    It's "keep your friends close and your enemies closer".

    However, the line between enemies and friends is a constantly shifting, and very fuzzy demarcation these days. How naive of me … it always has been, of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    So America still seems to consider it's back yard after the Second World War

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    "338Statistic "we expect..."
    Who's we? You don't speak for me."

    'We' - is the British public...

    The British public expects the BBC to do its job & duty in reporting about the Snowden revelations as it is of great public interest, especially since our own security system (GCHQ) is also highly involved.

    Who are 'you'...a member of the information suppression establishment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Good idea to check out how much what Merkel says is the truth. It wasn't concerning Greece. The usual trick is to accuse someone else of something their politicians know the German people will object to and then use this to justify passing some horrendous measures on the so-called offenders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Interesting that the UK govt. isn't kicking up a stink - then again they're in cahoots with the US govt. anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    "there is the old adage of keep your enemies close and your friends closer"

    I think that's "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" wonder what that says about how the US views the Germans?!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Governments complaining about be spyed upon were not naive to the fact. The problem is that its become public knowledge, so they have to call the ambassador in for cup of tea. The real issue is the majority of the public is naive and are surprised. (present company excepted)

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    So as those 'democratic' countries do precisely the same as the U.S (as does China, Russia), why condemn solely the U.S?
    Everyone is watching everyone, isn't that safer?
    No other country has the systems the US has. Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft... all US companies implicated. No other nation has a data-center like the one in Utah, therefore the capability is nowhere close to US

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Merkel should offer Snowden political asylum in Germany - with a guarantee of no extradition to the US. That would get up the nose of the Americans good and proper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.
    I suppose due to quoting previous poster's link to a certain previous German administration.
    However, if anybody saw the unflattering, though slightly comical, picture of Frau Merkel (now changed), her phone decoration was more akin to

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    Noone thinks anything they do will come back to haunt them. Let me ask this, what would you think of how safe you were with the mass collection if let's say, the US government wanted something from you, how do you know they won't use something you did 20 years ago and threatened your marriage/career all because of a few texts or phone messages? You think they aren't willing for 'national security'

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Well, I guess, the common denominator here is the proverbial saying "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". Anybody expecting ethics or morals from politicians has to be naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Hope U.S would bring everything under software so as to scan each and every humans life position and their behaviour .Is Obama's personal life is secured or under N.S.A 's scan ? ....If Angela's mobile is scanned then y not Putin's bank account or cameroon's email id ....


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