Report: NSA Kept Tabs on Merkel’s Phone Since 2002

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 26 2013 4:12 PM

Report: NSA Kept Tabs on Merkel’s Phone Since 2002

Protesters march through downtown Washington D.C. during the Stop Watching Us Rally protesting surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency, on October 26

Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

An already complicated diplomatic situation got a bit trickier for the White House Saturday after Germany’s Der Spiegel reported that the National Security Agency may have bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone as early as 2002. President Barack Obama reportedly told Merkel that he had no idea about the spying on her phone and he would have ordered it stopped had he known, according to Der Spiegel and another German daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Der Spiegel hasn’t published the story in English and Google translate doesn’t quite cut it for such a delicate issue, but Reuters publishes a summary of what’s in the story. The magazine saw an NSA Special Collection Service document that claimed the agency had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the U.S. embassy in Berlin. And U.S. authorities seemed to be well aware that if their ally Germany were to find out about the spying post it wouldn’t be very happy. But it was hardly a unique situation considering there were about 80 of these branches across the world. The one thing that is not clear from the documents Der Spiegel saw is whether the NSA officials actually listened in on Merkel’s communication or whether they used the information to build networks of contacts.


Meanwhile, Germany said it will be sending senior intelligence officials to Washington to try to figure out exactly what was done when, reports the Guardian. "We are talking to the Americans to clear things up as quickly as possible. A high-level delegation will travel for talks with the White House and National Security Agency to push forward the investigation into the recent allegations,” a German government spokesman said. Germany and Brazil are apparently working together on a U.N. resolution that would call for protecting the privacy of electronic communications.

Meanwhile, in Washington, thousands got together to protest NSA surveillance, saying lawmakers need to keep closer tabs on the agency, reports USA Today. The protesters carried signs that read "Thank you, Edward Snowden" and "No NSA mass spying," among others.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked.
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 23 2014 10:30 AM Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 11:34 AM Louis C.K. Crashes a Brad Pitt Interview on Between Two Ferns
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.