Germans: NSA bugged chancellor
BERLIN — Furious German officials said on Wednesday that American intelligence agencies may have been monitoring Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone, touching off a fresh diplomatic headache for President Obama after a week in which other close allies condemned his administration over allegations of other spying misdeeds.
The German leader called Obama about the issue, forcing him to assure a European leader for the second time this week that the United States has not overstepped boundaries in its eavesdropping programs.
Obama told Merkel, an ally who has been upset since the extent of the U.S. surveillance program was disclosed several months ago, that the United States is not eavesdropping on her telephone calls, the White House said Wednesday. Reports in Germany raised fears that such spying was taking place.
On Monday, Obama placed a phone call to French President François Hollande after furor there over reports that millions of French phone calls had been recorded over a 30-day period last year. A top U.S. intelligence official denied those wiretapping reports.
The accusations in Germany were prompted by reporting by the news magazine Der Spiegel, which has run many stories based on classified National Security Agency documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Der Spiegel said on its website Wednesday that the German intelligence agencies had, after a review of the magazine's technical data, deemed its information about the monitoring of Merkel's cellphone “over years” plausible enough to confront the U.S. government about it.
Merkel told Obama that if the accusations are confirmed, she “unequivocally disapproves of such practices and sees them as completely unacceptable,” her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement, adding that any monitoring “would be a grave breach of trust.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama assured Merkel that the United States “is not monitoring and will not monitor” her phone conversations. Asked whether the statement left open the possibility that the NSA has tracked Merkel's calls in the past, Carney said he did not have an answer to that question.
Obama visited Germany in June and met with Merkel, who expressed displeasure that the NSA had been monitoring the communications of German citizens. The new disclosures revived tensions that the White House had hoped had been resolved.
Merkel is a famously avid user of text messaging, and she is frequently photographed checking her smartphone during long sessions of Parliament and on the road.