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Ear to the Ground

Obama Pressed to Discuss Spying on Merkel

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Posted on Oct 27, 2013
Bundeswehr-Fotos Wir.Dienen.Deutschland. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The White House is under pressure to reveal how much President Obama knew about or even authorized U.S. spying on the leaders of allied countries after the disclosure that the NSA monitored the phone calls of at least 35 world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany’s Der Spiegel reported that the agency had listed Merkel’s number since 2002. The White House has so far refused to comment on the story. The Spiegel piece raised the question of whether the surveillance, which began three years before Merkel became chancellor, was initially intended to gather intelligence ahead of the Iraq War, which Germany opposed.

Legislation aimed at reforming the NSA is being introduced in both houses of Congress this week. It focuses primarily on surveillance that might involve U.S. citizens, however, not activities against other nations.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

The German tabloid Bild reported that Obama was personally informed about US surveillance against Merkel by the director of the NSA, Keith Alexander, in 2010, and allowed the operation to continue. The newspaper cited “a secret intelligence employee who is familiar with the NSA operation against Merkel”. The Bild article also claimed that intelligence gathered by US spies based in Berlin was not channelled to NSA headquarters in Forte Meade, Maryland, but directly to the White House.

The newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported that when Obama spoke to Merkel over the phone on Wednesday, he assured the German leader he had not previously known her phone had been monitored.

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