A new report suggests that the NSA has monitored the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It's not really the alleged spying that's surprising, but the scope of it.
Germany’s Angela Merkel demanded an explanation from President Obama Wednesday over allegations that the United States has been monitoring not just German government communications, but her personal cellphone.
Chancellor Merkel, take a number.
Merkel is only the latest in a parade of world leaders lining up to blast the US – and in a few cases, berate Mr. Obama himself – for the reported widespread eavesdropping by the National Security Agency (NSA) on friendly governments’ communications and those of their citizens.
In some cases, the NSA spying extended right to the offices and personal phones of some of the US’s closest allies, reports based on information leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden suggest. After Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto, France’s François Hollande, and – also today – Italy’s Enrico Letta, Merkel acted after press reports claimed that the NSA spying was much broader and reached higher up than previously known.
Merkel placed her “Are you spying on me Barack?” phone call to the White House after the German news magazine Der Spiegel queried Merkel’s office about the allegations in its investigative report.
The German government “has received information that the chancellor’s cellphone may be monitored by American intelligence,” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement.
Not so, White House spokesman Jay Carney rejoined. Briefing the White House press on Merkel’s call to Obama, Mr. Carney said “the president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor.”
Carney left unclear whether or not the US had ever monitored Merkel’s phone, but his artful construction – “is not … will not” – only fed suspicions that it probably has.
The US has assured allies and partners that its spying programs are under review and that the US, which is recognized as having the most expansive and advanced surveillance capabilities in the world, is determined to strike the right balance between privacy and national security in its intelligence-gathering activities.
But there are also signs that an embarrassed US is getting a little tired of the issue and would prefer to move on to other things.