BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained to President Barack Obama on Wednesday after learning that U.S. intelligence may have targeted her mobile phone, saying that would be “a serious breach of trust” if confirmed.
For its part, the White House denied that the United States is listening in on Merkel’s phone calls now.
“The president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “The United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges.”
Carney, however, did not specifically say that the United States had never monitored or obtained Merkel’s communications.
The German government said it responded after receiving “information that the chancellor’s cellphone may be monitored” by U.S. intelligence. It wouldn’t elaborate, but German news magazine Der Spiegel, which has published material from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, said its research triggered the response.
Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a news release the chancellor made clear to Obama in a phone call that “she views such practices, if the indications are confirmed ... as completely unacceptable.”
Merkel said among close partners such as Germany and the United States, “there must not be such surveillance of a head of government’s communication,” Seibert added. “That would be a serious breach of trust. Such practices must be stopped immediately.”
Carney said the United States is examining Germany’s concerns as part of an ongoing review of how intelligence is gathered.
The White House has cited that review in responding to similar spying concerns from France, Brazil and other countries.
U.S. allies knew that the Americans were spying on them, but they had no idea how much.
As details of National Security Agency spying programs have become public, citizens, activists and politicians in countries from Latin America to Europe have lined up to express shock and outrage at the scope of Washington’s spying.
Merkel had raised concerns over electronic eavesdropping when Obama visited Germany in June; she demanded answers from the U.S. government and backed calls for greater European data protection. Wednesday’s release, however, was much more sharply worded and appeared to reflect frustration over the answers provided so far by the U.S. government.