Thursday 23 November 2017

UK ambassador called in by Berlin over spy claim

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel

David Blair

Germany's foreign ministry has called in the British ambassador to explain reports that the UK has been operating a spying station from its Berlin embassy.

Germany called in the British ambassador for a formal protest yesterday after reports suggested that British intelligence runs an eavesdropping centre in Berlin.

The facility, allegedly sited on the roof of the British Embassy in Berlin, is supposedly operated by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK's largest intelligence agency.

Germany took the unusual step of requesting Simon McDonald, the British ambassador, to attend a meeting at the foreign ministry.

The German diplomat responsible for relations with European countries "asked for an explanation of current reports in British media and indicated that tapping communications from a diplomatic mission would be a violation of international law".

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA), appeared to disclose the GCHQ listening post in Berlin, according to Britain's 'Independent' newspaper.

The British Embassy is only a few hundred yards from the US mission, where the NSA was running an eavesdropping centre that targeted the mobile phone of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

America is believed to have ended this surveillance after Mrs Merkel protested personally to President Barack Obama.

The suggestion is that GCHQ's listening post may simply have taken up the role instead. Its position on the roof of the embassy building in the heart of Berlin, close to the parliament building, Mrs Merkel's office – and every government ministry – would make it ideally situated to gather sensitive intelligence.

Britain and Germany are allies in Nato and the European Union.

ADVANTAGE

However, intelligence on the intentions of German leaders could give the British government an advantage during negotiations among the members of both organisations.

Mrs Merkel has made clear her anger with US eavesdropping, reportedly telling Mr Obama that this was "not done" between allies.

The president has responded with an assurance that her phone is no longer being targeted – and will not be in the future.

Germany's unease now appears to be focused on Britain. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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