by Philip Sherwell, New York and
Louise Barnett in Berlin
27 October 2013
Mr Obama was told of the
secret monitoring of
Mrs Merkel by General Keith
Alexander, the head of the NSA,
in 2010, according to Bild am
Sonntag, a German newspaper.
President Barack Obama
was told about monitoring of German
Chancellor in 2010
and allowed it to continue,
says German newspaper
The NSA has been tapping
German leader Angela Merkelís phone for a
German papers say that
President Obama approved the spying program.
Obama denies he knew anything about it.
Which is worse:
- A rogue NSA which doesnít tell the commander-in-chief
that it is going to tap a foreign leaderís
- Or a president who approves itÖ and then lies about it?
Barack Obama was dragged into the
trans-Atlantic spying row after it was claimed he personally authorized the
monitoring of Angela Merkelís phone three years ago.
The president allegedly allowed US intelligence to listen to calls from the
German Chancellorís mobile phone after he was briefed on the operation by
Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA),
The latest claim, reported in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag,
followed reports in Der Spiegel that the surveillance of Mrs Merkelís
phone began as long ago as 2002, when she was still the opposition leader,
three years before being elected Chancellor.
That monitoring only ended in the weeks before
Mr Obama visited Berlin in June this year, the magazine added.
Citing leaked US intelligence documents, it also reported that America
conducted eavesdropping operations on the German government from a listening
post at its embassy beside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, one of more than
80 such centers worldwide.
Mr Obamaís European allies will now ask him to say what he personally knew
about the NSAís global eavesdropping operation and its targeting of world
leaders, including those from friendly states. The White House declined to
comment on the German media reports.
Last week, however, Mr Obama assured Mrs Merkel that her phone is not being
monitored now - and will not be in future. But the US has pointedly declined
to discuss the NSAís actions in the past.
Its surveillance operations raises questions about whether US officials
breached domestic laws.
Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior
"If the Americans intercepted cellphones in
Germany, they broke German law on German soil".
He noted that wiretapping was a crime in Germany
and "those responsible must be held accountable".
Even before the latest reports, German intelligence chiefs were preparing to
travel to Washington this week to demand answers from the NSA about the
alleged surveillance of Mrs Merkel.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, received a dose of European
fury this weekend when he visited Paris and Rome.
The trip was arranged to discuss,
Instead, he was confronted by outrage over the
scale of US surveillance operations.
"The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what
shocked us," said Bernard Kouchner, a former French foreign minister, in
a radio interview.
"Letís be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone
is listening to everyone else. But we donít have the same means as the
United States, which makes us jealous."
According to the leaked documents in Spiegel,
NSA officials acknowledged that any disclosure of the existence of the
foreign listening posts would lead to "grave damage" for US relations with
Such posts exist in 19 European cities, including Paris, Madrid, Rome and
Frankfurt, according to the magazine, which has based its reports on
provided by Edward
Snowden, the former NSA contractor.
Mr Obama did not comment, but Republican supporters of the US intelligence
community began a fightback on the political talk-shows.
Mike Rogers, the chairman of the intelligence committee in the House
of Representatives, said that Americaís allies should be grateful for
surveillance operations which targeted terrorist threats.
"I would argue by the way, if the French
citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and
popping champagne corks," he told CNNís State of the Union.
"Itís a good thing. it keeps the French safe. It keeps the US safe. It
keeps our European allies safe."
Peter King, a fellow Republican
congressman, said that Mr Obama should not apologize for NSA operations in
"The president should stop apologizing, stop
being defensive," he said on NBCís Meet the Press.
"The reality is the NSA has saved thousands
of lives not just in the United States but in France, Germany and
throughout Europe. Quite frankly, the NSA has done so much for our
country and so much for the president, heís the commander in chief. He
should stand with the NSA."
John Schindler, a former NSA official,
noted that planning for the 'terrorist'
attacks on Sept 11, 2001 had taken place in Hamburg.
"If 9/11 had happened to Germany and been
planned in NY not Hamburg, Iíd expect [German] intel to monitor USA top
2 bottom," he wrote on Twitter.
A German intelligence official, quoted by Die
"The Americans did not want to rely
exclusively on us after September 11th. That is
Another told the newspaper:
"Without information from the Americans,
there would have been successful terrorist attacks in Germany in the