Angela Merkel demands answers from Barack Obama as Germany says US may have tapped her phone

That a German chancellor should even make such an inquiry of an American president is remarkable and serves to illustrate how far trust has broken down between the two nations

Berlin, New York, Brussels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called US President Barack Obama to demand an explanation after secret service reports appeared to show that US intelligence agencies had tapped her mobile phone for years.

“The Chancellor made it clear that should the indications prove true, she unequivocally disapproves and considers them totally unacceptable,” Ms Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters. “This would be a serious breach of trust. Such practices must be halted immediately,” he added.

Confirming that the highly unusual call had taken place, the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said that Mr Obama had reassured Ms Merkel she is under no such surveillance.

“The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor”, he said. Mr Carney did not say whether monitoring of Ms Merkel's phone might have occurred in the past.

That a German chancellor should even make such an inquiry of an American president is remarkable and serves to illustrate how far trust has broken down between the US and even its allies on how far Washington has gone in breaking the norms of privacy to keep tabs not just on its foes but its friends too.

The European Parliament today voted to suspend a data sharing agreement with the United States aimed at detecting terrorist fund-raising, the latest salvo as the EU scrambles to find an appropriate response to the hacking allegations against America's National Security Agency (NSA).

The resolution would need the backing of member states to take effect, but it highlights grave concerns in Brussels over claims that the US security agency tapped communications both of European Union institutions and member states including France and Belgium.

The issue is likely to be discussed when EU heads of state gather on Thursday for a summit, with France the latest country reeling from claims in Le Monde that the NSA could have spied on more than 70 million phone records, text messages and private conversations.

Der Spiegel magazine's website disclosed that it had made enquiries with Germany's intelligence services which had raised the possibility that Ms Merkel's phone had been subjected to surveillance by the NSA.

The magazine said the German government considered the reports “sufficiently plausible” to warrant an immediate phone call from the Chancellor to President Obama in person.

Mr Seibert said Ms Merkel had made it clear to Mr Obama that she expected an explanation for the “entire scope” of NSA phone surveillance in Germany, which would provide answers to questions Berlin put to the US administration several months ago.

“As a close ally of the United States of America, the German government expects for the future, a clear basis which defines the activities of the intelligence services,” Mr Seibert added.

In June this year information supplied by Edward Snowden, the whistle blower and former contractor who worked with the NSA now in hiding in Russia, claimed NSA's German phone and internet surveillance operation was the biggest in the European Union. On 7 January, it was reported to have tapped into some 60 million German phone calls in a single day.

The reports prompted the German government to demand a full explanation from the United States  which Berlin insists it is still waiting for.

Mexico this week lodged a complaint that the emails of its former president, Felipe Calderon, had been hacked by the Agency. The leader of Brazil, Dilma Rouseff, cancelled a state visit to the US in protest at the snooping allegations.

In most instances, the US has not been able to give a straight answer to the complaints, beyond making the case that every nation has extensive espionage operations in the interests of protecting national security. 

It wasn't clear whether Mr Obama was blindsided by Ms Merkel's call.

Answering questions during an overseas trip earlier in the summer about allegations of US spying on the European Union's offices in Washington, Mr Obama was forced to rehearse the business-as-usual argument. 

“Every intelligence service - not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there's an intelligence service - here's one thing that they're going to be doing: They're going to be trying to understand the world better, and what's going on in world capitals around the world,” he said during a visit to Africa. “If that weren't the case, then there'd be no use for an intelligence service.”

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st line call logger/ User access administrator

£9 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Warrington a...

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star