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.

Start Quote

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”

End Quote

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.

 

Comments

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  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 614.

    Obama is right to spy on European leaders, in the 20th centuary all Britain's problems came from Europe and all the solutions came from the English speaking world,nothing has changed in my opinion.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 613.

    Incredibly, Euro Sceptics now become Merkel Admirers. I am telling you, this federalist lady has more iron than once beloved Margaret Thatcher ever did. More balls than FIFA in fact. God, despite her amazingly downbeat looks, I truly love her! Kick Obama Inc where it hurts Angela. Don't let the bar stewards get away with it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 612.

    605. solar
    Oh dear Lord... No Philip, just... no.
    /////////
    Yes, sweetie, I am afraid you'll have to try a bit harder if you really want to push your agenda.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 611.

    571.GreatWhitePathan
    "If Angela Merkel is got nothing to hide, then she shouldn't be worried! Right?"


    I have nothing to hide or be worried about at my morning ablutions... but I would want Obama and staff watching me.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 610.

    @599.Hastings
    @3. Joe Blogger
    It does not resemble the fall of the Roman Empire in anyway whatsoever

    There are similarities between great empires, one is that they tend to claim the moral high ground when their citizens are on the receiving end but have a "C'est la vie" attitude when the boots on other foot

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 609.

    568

    Why do people insist on calling the USA "the second Roman Empire"??
    Apart from walking into other countries uninvited, there's little similarity...


    Thanks for answering your own question

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 608.

    @592. Rather_Be_Cycling

    incompetence can be a dangerous thing, especially when using "intelligence" in making analysis & conclusions about invading another country.

    anti-Iraq war academics & journalists were dismissed as conspiracy theorists. Many were fooled before & during Iraq war, based on western intelligence & snooping, then blair managed to pull it off again during the chilcot whitewash.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 607.

    Its probably all false and yet another ploy by western democracy haters to cause mayhem and mistrust. If its true, so what everyone is doing it. Is there such thing a thing as "rights" in reality. If things change your rights change too. You could be conscripted for instance and be killed in some war that the government deems important to fight. Where are your rights then? Right to be buried?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 606.

    A close friend was in the Peace Corps in Borneo. A young idealistic volunteer medic inspired by Kennedy, He after other corps workers in the jungle. He was asked to map all rivers, all fuel and population sites and submit them. In 1990 he got his file under the freedom of information act & learned all his data was unknowingly sent to the CIA. What a threat to the US 1960s Borneo must have been!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 605.

    @591 Philip Jennings "Why? This has been going on for decades, it's not as if Obama started this. For a US president, he is still pretty good, despite all the efforts to undermine him."

    Oh dear Lord... No Philip, just... no.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 604.

    Who said America was the greatest country in the world.........oh, the American gov't......

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 603.

    598. Matthew
    the US & UK special relationship is the reason we do not have a USofE to counter the USA!
    --
    Actually I agree with that entirely. However I believe the USofE was called "the third Reich" before the US & UK's special relationship spoilt that.

    Seriously I think you need to consider the past 100 years history to understand why we have a GCHQ and why we keep an eye on the neighbours

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 602.

    I think 'summons' is correct from the way Merkel presents herself I bet shes hopping mad - resembling Head Mistress angry, like Pam Ferris in Matilda.

    I wonder what they were looking for?

    Tips on how to improve their economy perhaps??

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 601.

    @594.Emperor Wibble
    218.Panama Red
    Would be interesting to know how successful this surveillance has been?
    In terms of stopping terrorist attacks by the German Chancellor, probably 100%.

    there are some Greeks & Italians who would profoundly disagree with you

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 600.

    @Desperate_Dan: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24651975?postId=117713215#comment_117713215

    "Anyone would think Germany and France have no intelligence services of their own and never spy on anyone. They are doing what they can, they just don't quite have the technological capabilities of the USA."

    Strawman. German judiciary has repeatedly delivered public spankings to German intelligence

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 599.

    @3. Joe Blogger

    It does not resemble the fall of the Roman Empire in anyway whatsoever.

    And to be honest, everyone spies on everyone - this is just about the US because the snitch worked for the US.

    If he had worked for Russia, it would have been about Russia. And if he worked for the French it would have been about France.

    Turning this into anti-american sneering just hides the reality

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 598.

    @564.buzzingworld

    GCHQ do not make me laugh

    They are part of the problem, they spy on Americans for the US government subverting US federal laws forbidding the US GOV. from spying on American citizens and the American's aka the CIA spy on everyone else an there leaders then shares the data with the UK, the US & UK special relationship is the reason we do not have a USofE to counter the USA!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 597.

    Have the beeb 'managed to obtain, from sources' a record of the meeting between Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and US envoy John Emerson?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 596.

    591. solar
    I wonder if the Luvvies are gonna start admitting that Obama wasnt quite the Messiah they thought he was?
    ////////////
    Why? This has been going on for decades, it's not as if Obama started this. For a US president, he is still pretty good, despite all the efforts to undermine him.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 595.

    All governments are at it, it's only a matter of scale. At the moment it is the USA in the headlines but I'm sure China isn't far behind and it's nice to know what your friends are thinking, you already know what your enemies think. Non of the above means I approve of the US activities but it is the real world we live in whether we like it or not.

 

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