Monday 22 January 2018

Merkel exposed in US phone snooping outrage

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Tony Paterson in Berlin

Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to face further political embarrassment over Berlin's spy scandal following new revelations that US intelligence planned to obtain unlimited access to Germany's main internet cable networks in its attempt to achieve saturation surveillance.

The plan, revealed by intelligence sources to 'Die Welt' newspaper yesterday, was put forward in 2008 by America's National Security Agency and was an attempt to "widen" an already allegedly dubious co-operation agreement the agency held with Germany's BND intelligence service.

Sources said that although Ms Merkel's office rejected a request to tap the country's main internet cable junction in Frankfurt, her knowledge of the plan showed that she knew that German and US intelligence gathering co-operation had "clearly exceeded what German citizens and companies deemed acceptable". Ms Merkel is already under fire following disclosures last week that the BND actively co-operated with the NSA to spy on European politicians and companies from their joint "listening post" at the former US military intelligence gathering centre in Bad Aibling in Bavaria.

The disclosures have shocked and alarmed Germany where, for many, spying is synonymous with the activities of Hitler's Gestapo or Communist East Germany's all-pervasive Stasi secret police. Eighteen months ago at the height of the first of Germany's recent US spying scandals, revelations that the NSA had tapped Ms Merkel's mobile phone prompted the German chancellor to declare publicly: "Spying among friends - this is just not on."

A deep rift in US-German relations ensued. But in the wake of last week's evidence, Ms Merkel's earlier condemnation of NSA phone-tapping has left her looking at best politically naïve and at worst hypocritical. Ms Merkel's deputy, the Social Democrat vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, has called for a "thorough investigation".

Irish Independent

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