The newly re-elected Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pretty peeved at President Obama over allegations that the National Security Agency has been monitoring her cellphone. Although the White House denies these actions, German intelligence investigators believe Merkel has reason to be upset. Wednesday she reportedly called Obama demanding an explanation regarding the alleged eavesdropping, which was reported by German newspaper Der Spiegel, and further investigated by her government intelligence agency. The Guardian, the British paper that printed the Edward Snowden leaks in the first place, reports:
Merkel told Obama that “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated,” Seifert said. “This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately.”
The sharpness of the German complaint direct to an American president strongly suggested that Berlin had no doubt about the grounds for protest. Seibert voiced irritation that the Germans had waited for months for proper answers from Washington to Berlin on the NSA operations.
Merkel told Obama she expected the Americans “to supply information over the possible scale of such eavesdropping practices against Germany and reply to questions that the federal government asked months ago”, Seibert said.
The White House responded that Merkel’s mobile is not being tapped. “The president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,” said a statement from Jay Carney, the White House spokesman.
But Berlin promptly signalled that the rebuttal referred to the present and the future and did not deny that Merkel’s communications had been monitored in the past.
Asked by the Guardian if the US had monitored the German chancellor’s phone in the past, a top White House official declined to deny that it had.
Caitlin Hayden, the White House’s National Security Council spokeswoman, said: “The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel. Beyond that, I’m not in a position to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity.”
Obama and Merkel, the White House said, “agreed to intensify further the co-operation between our intelligence services with the goal of protecting the security of both countries and of our partners, as well as protecting the privacy of our citizens.”
But where was all this outrage when the NSA leaks were first revealed? According to social media, many Germans are critical of Merkel’s belated outrage, but it seems this time Obama hit a soft spot since the chancellor is known for being an avid cellphone user, nicknamed “die Handy-Kanzlerin.” During her first years as chancellor, she also had a chip placed in her phone to avoid being bugged, but it seems the NSA hasn’t met an encryption it can’t get around.
As for how this latest revelation will affect relations between the U.S. and Germany (and, likely, the entire European Union), Greens Party parliamentary leader Katrin Goring-Eckhart says that “If these allegations turn out to be true, we are dealing with an incredible scandal and an unprecedented breach of trust between the two countries, for which there can be no justification.”