German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accused the United States of an unacceptable breach of trust after its agents allegedly bugged her personal mobile.
Mrs Merkel said she had spoken to President Barack Obama by phone late on Wednesday
She made the revelation as she arrived in Brussels yesterday for a two-day summit on the European Union’s economic and social policy agenda. The summit has been overshadowed by the allegations of eavesdropping by the US National Security Agency (NSA) on Italy, France and Germany.
Mrs Merkel said: “It’s not just about me but about every German citizen. We need to have trust in our allies and partners, and this trust must now be established once again. I repeat that spying among friends is not at all acceptable against anyone, and that goes for every citizen in Germany.”
A spokesman for Germany’s federal prosecutor said it was creating a “monitoring process” that could lead to prosecutions.
The stern words from Mrs Merkel follow an announcement from Berlin on Wednesday that it had seen evidence suggesting her mobile was “monitored” by the NSA.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr Obama had assured Mrs Merkel in their telephone call that the US “is not monitoring and will not monitor” her communications, leaving open the possibility that it had happened in the past.
The affair dredges up memories of eavesdropping by the Stasi secret police in the former East Germany, where Mrs Merkel grew up, and is an emotive topic for many Germans. German defence minister Thomas de Maizière said: “If what we are now hearing is true, that would be really bad. The Americans are and remain our closest friends, but this is completely unacceptable.”
Mr de Maizière went on to say that he had assumed for years his own phone had been tapped. “However, I did not expect the Americans,” he added. Asked about possible effects on US-German and US-European relations, Mr de Maizière said: “We can’t simply return to business as usual. There are allegations in France, too.”
The phone in question – a Nokia used by Mrs Merkel between October 2009 and July this year – was turned over on Wednesday to technicians at the BND intelligence service who set about taking it apart, but it is understood the hacking of calls and texts would not be traceable if carried out by experts.
According to the FAZ newspaper, the Nokia was a “party device” paid for by her CDU party, and therefore not equipped with the anti-bugging devices of her own official smartphone.
Germany’s frustration follows outrage in France after Le Monde newspaper this week reported the NSA had collected tens of thousands of French phone records between December 2012 and January 2013, and an Italian news magazine reported that the NSA had monitored sensitive Italian telecommunications.
Mrs Merkel, who had discussed a “no spying” agreement with the US, hinted that data-sharing deals with Washington may need to be revisited.
“We are allies facing challenges together. But such an alliance can only be built on the basis of trust,” Mrs Merkel added.
The chancellor and the French president, François Hollande discussed the spying allegations one-to-one before the Brussels summit, with Mr Hollande suggesting beforehand that he intended to put the issue formally on the agenda.
Following leaks by former US data analyst Edward Snowden – now granted asylum by Moscow – which revealed the reach of the NSA’s data-collection programmes, the US is now at odds with a host of important allies, from Brazil to Saudi Arabia.