Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

German federal prosecutor opens investigation of alleged NSA surveillance of Merkel's phone

German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles as she arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Enlarge Image

German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles as she arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN - German prosecutors have opened an investigation into the alleged monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone by the U.S. National Security Agency, officials said Wednesday, in a move that could again complicate diplomatic relations between the two allies.

It wasn't immediately clear what the new investigation might mean in terms of possible prosecutions of Americans.

Documents provided by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden indicated in October the U.S. was monitoring Merkel's cellphone conversations, as well as those of 35 other foreign leaders. Merkel expressed outrage and accused Washington of a grave breach of trust.

In the ensuing diplomatic fallout, President Barack Obama acknowledged Germany's anger and promised that new guidelines would cut back on such monitoring, except in the case of a national security interest.

"The leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to learn what they think about an issue, I will pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance," Obama said at the time.

Following the news of the German probe, Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said the U.S. believes direct dialogue between the two countries rather than an investigation is the best way to address Germany's concerns.

"We believe we have an open line and good communication" with Merkel and her team, Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama flew to Brussels for a meeting of the Group of Seven nations.

After mulling for months whether to open a formal probe, Chief Federal Prosecutor Harald Range determined "that sufficient factual evidence exists that unknown members of U.S. intelligence services spied on the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel," his office said.

"The operation of a foreign intelligence service's secret agents is a criminal offence in Germany," Range told reporters after the decision was announced. "And that's not dependent on whether it is the intelligence agency of a friend or of another nation."

Range refused to say how he would interrogate witnesses, saying he couldn't comment on any specifics about the investigation.

In a similarly thorny diplomatic case, Germany got as far as issuing warrants for 13 unidentified CIA agents suspected of kidnapping a German terrorism suspect and taking him to a detention centre in Afghanistan. The case was shelved in 2007 after the U.S. Justice Department said extraditing the agents would harm "American national interests."

In his Wednesday announcement, Range's office said he was not opening a formal investigation of wider allegations of blanket surveillance of telecommunications data in Germany by U.S. and British intelligence, saying that there was not yet sufficient factual evidence of concrete crimes. His office said that will remain under consideration.

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, declined to comment on Range's decision or on whether the government fears it will weigh on relations with the U.S.

The government didn't exert any influence on the prosecutor, Seibert told reporters. "I am not going to evaluate here the decision he has made," he said.

Separately, the German Parliament earlier this year set up a committee to investigate the scope of spying by the U.S. and its allies in the "Five Eyes" network — which also includes Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in Germany.

It is seeking testimony from Snowden. Opposition parties want him brought to Berlin to testify, but the government argues that that would hurt trans-Atlantic relations and security co-operation with the U.S. Snowden is currently in Russia.

_____

Geir Moulson and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Nedra Pickler aboard Air Force One contributed to this story.

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media