U.S. may have bugged German chancellor’s mobile phone

Barak Obama and Angela Merkel

Yet more awkwardness looms at Thursday’s U.S-EU summit. On top of growing anger over Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, Angela Merkel has reportedly had a strong word with Barack Obama over the likely tapping of her phone.

According to a German-language report in Der Spiegel on Wednesday, research undertaken by the same publication suggested that U.S. intelligence services may have bugged the chancellor’s cell phone. Germany’s own security agencies deemed the information serious enough to warrant confronting the Americans.

Der Spiegel noted that, when it asked the U.S. National Security Council for comment, it was told that — in the present tense — Merkel’s communications were not being monitored. Later, the White House issued a statement that again did not deny past monitoring:

“Today, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel spoke by telephone regarding allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted the communications of the German Chancellor. The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.

“The United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges. As the President has said, the United States is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly balance the security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

“Both leaders agreed to intensify further the cooperation between our intelligence services with the goal of protecting the security of both countries and of our partners, as well as protecting the privacy of our citizens.”

France is already angry at the U.S. for allegedly recording millions of its citizens’ calls, an accusation that has been denied. Similarly, the Germans have also been heavily targeted and now the Spanish are getting nervous too.

Beyond Europe, the NSA is also alleged to have bugged Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, former Mexican president Felipe Calderon, and even the United Nations itself.

This post was updated at 12.30pm PT to include the White House’s statement.

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