Alleged tap of Merkel's phone angers Berlin
AP and AFPBERLIN -- Germany's Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador Thursday following allegations that American intelligence may have targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.
October 25, 2013, 12:27 am TWN
At the same time, a senior lawmaker expressed concern at the White House's statement that it isn't monitoring and won't monitor Merkel's communications — a response that didn't address what might have happened in the past. And the defense minister added that Europe can't simply return to business as usual in trans-Atlantic ties following a string of reports that the U.S. was spying on its allies.
Merkel's government says she complained to President Barack Obama on Wednesday after receiving information her cellphone may have been monitored.
In an unusually strongly worded statement on Wednesday evening, Merkel's spokesman said the chancellor had spoken to President Barack Obama to seek clarity on the spying charges.
“She made clear that she views such practices, if proven true, as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally,” the statement read.
The Foreign Ministry said U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson is expected to meet Thursday afternoon with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who will “spell out the position of the German government.”
The U.S. Embassy said it had no comment.
Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television the alleged surveillance would be “really bad” if confirmed. “The Americans are and remain our best friends, but this is absolutely not right,” he said.
“I have reckoned for years with my cellphone being monitored, but I wasn't reckoning with the Americans,” said de Maiziere, who was previously Merkel's chief of staff and Germany's interior minister.
“We can't simply return to business as usual,” de Maiziere said when asked about possible effects on U.S.-German and U.S.-European relations.
This week, France demanded an explanation of a report the U.S. swept up millions of French phone records, and also summoned the American ambassador.
Leaders of the European Union's 28 countries meet in Brussels later Thursday for a long-planned summit.
De Maiziere didn't specify what effects the affair might have on relations. However, he said that “the relations between our countries are stable and important for our future; they will remain that way.”
Germany, which has Europe's biggest economy, has been one of Washington's closest allies in Europe. The United States was West Germany's protector during the Cold War and the country is still home to thousands of U.S. troops.
A German parliamentary committee that oversees the country's intelligence service held a meeting Thursday to discuss the matter.
Its head, Thomas Oppermann, said he was informed that news magazine Der Spiegel had confronted the chancellery with documents on the matter, that the suspicion of surveillance was reviewed and found to be “plausible.” Der Spiegel has published material from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but didn't detail its sources on the cellphone story.
Recalling previous reports to the panel that U.S. authorities have said they didn't violate German interests, Oppermann said ahead of the meeting that “we were apparently deceived by the American side.”