Did the NSA hack Chancellor Merkel's mobile phone?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned President Obama demanding to know if the NSA had hacked her mobile phone and was listening in. This follows reports from a few days ago that President Hollande of France also called the White House demanding to know if the NSA were surveilling millions of French people's communications.
By the time Obama leaves office, will we have any friends at all?
The furore over the scale of American mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden shifted to an incendiary new level on Wednesday evening when Angela Merkel of Germany called Barack Obama to demand explanations over reports that the US National Security Agency was monitoring her mobile phone.
Merkel was said by informed sources in Germany to be "livid" over the reports and convinced, on the basis of a German intelligence investigation, that the reports were utterly substantiated.
The German news weekly, Der Spiegel, reported an investigation by German intelligence, prompted by research from the magazine, that produced plausible information that Merkel's mobile was targeted by the US eavesdropping agency. The German chancellor found the evidence substantial enough to call the White House and demand clarification.
The outrage in Berlin came days after President François Hollande of France also called the White House to confront Obama with reports that the NSA was targeting the private phone calls and text messages of millions of French people.
While European leaders have generally been keen to play down the impact of the whistleblowing disclosures in recent months, events in the EU's two biggest countries this week threatened an upward spiral of lack of trust in transatlantic relations.
Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, made plain that Merkel upbraided Obama unusually sharply and also voiced exasperation at the slowness of the Americans to respond to detailed questions on the NSA scandal since the Snowden revelations first appeared in the Guardian in June.
Merkel told Obama that "she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated," Seifert said. "This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately."
The sharpness of the German complaint direct to an American president strongly suggested that Berlin had no doubt about the grounds for protest. Seibert voiced irritation that the Germans had waited for months for proper answers from Washington to Berlin on the NSA operations.
Merkel told Obama she expected the Americans "to supply information over the possible scale of such eavesdropping practices against Germany and reply to questions that the federal government asked months ago", Seibert said.
It would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall during that conversation, eh?
The White House says Obama denied tapping into Merkels communications. But the Germans point out that the denial was about the present - not the past.
The issue is going to come up at the EU summitt which opens today. Expect Obama to come in for some major criticism for not being candid about the nature and extent of NSA spying and for dragging his heels informing foreigh governments of NSA activities in their countries.
The Germans and the French are probably pining for the good old days of the Bush administration. Aren't you glad we now have a "smart" foreign policy led by someone as beloved as Obama?