US denies German media claims that Barack Obama knew NSA was spying on Angela Merkel's phone


Trying to contain a spying-on-friends scandal, Washington has denied reports in the German media that President Barack Obama knew about surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone and did not stop it.

The rift between the two allies threatened to worsen as German publications said the surveillance of Ms Merkel had been going on for a decade and that Mr Obama has known since 2010.  Anger over the affair has prompted demands from leading German politicians that Berlin should abandon negotiations over a EU-US free trade agreement until it is resolved.

“We should put the free-trade talks on ice until the allegations against America’s National Security Agency have been answered,” noted Ilse Aigner, Bavaria’s conservative Economics Minister, echoing calls by Sigmar Gabriel, the Social Democrat leader.

As the explosive reports surfaced last Wednesday, the Chancellor made an angry personal phone call to Mr Obama, who is said to have apologised and told her he had not known it was happening. Der Spiegel said he had told her he would have stopped it if he had known.

But a report in Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper flatly contradicted the suggestion that Mr Obama had not known. The paper quoted US intelligence sources as saying that in 2010 General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, NSA, had personally briefed Mr Obama about the phone tapping operation which targeted Ms Merkel. “Obama did not halt the operation, but rather let it continue,” the newspaper quoted a senior NSA source as saying. Ms Merkel’s number was said to have been on a NSA surveillance list into 2013.

But in a statement on Sunday night, the NSA denied the Bild report. Gen. Alexander, “did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel. News reports claiming otherwise are not true,” it said.

Der Spiegel magazine reported that the NSA had set up a listening post in Berlin’s heavily fortified American embassy, from which it had monitored Ms Merkel’s mobile phone calls. It said the surveillance was run by a unit called the Special Collections Services and began in 2002, three years before she became leader.

The magazine said the unit monitored all communications in the German capital’s government quarter, which is less than 300 yards away from the US embassy near the Brandenburg Gate. It said the NSA ran similar units at 80 locations worldwide, including 19 European cities.

Berlin will send senior intelligence chiefs to Washington this week in  an attempt to “push forward” an investigation into the NSA’s German surveillance operation, which was first reported in leaked US intelligence documents last June. More that 60 million German calls were said to have been monitored in a single day.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all