Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

US struggling to contain Europe spying scandal

  • Obama in Berlin: Reports say he knew the NSA was tapping Merkel's phone (Photo: Bundesregierung)

The US administration is struggling to cope with conflicting reports about the extent of President Barack Obama's knowledge about National Security Agency (NSA) spying on European leaders.

On Sunday (27 October), Germany's Bild am Sonntag quoted US intelligence sources saying Obama was briefed in 2010 by NSA chief Keith Alexander about Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone being tapped.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The NSA quickly denied the Bild report.

NSA chief Keith Alexander "did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel," NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the same day

"News reports claiming otherwise are not true," she added.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama only learned about the surveillance of some 35 leaders in June, after having ordered an internal review in the wake of revelations published by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The reported timing is still an embarrassment, however.

Obama visited Berlin in June and reassured Merkel and the German public that his intelligence services are not involved in any illegal spying.

In addition, the WSJ reports that some leaders are still being tapped, as the programmes have been scheduled to end but are still running.

The effect on German-US relations has been dramatic.

The US ambassador in Berlin was summoned to the German foreign ministry last week, while Merkel herself has strongly criticised US surveillance. Her intelligence chiefs are travelling to Washington this week to seek explanations.

The spying scandal also has united EU countries in their response.

France and Germany last week called for an international agreement on the work of intelligence agencies with the US.

France has also been irked by reports of mass surveillance, with some 70 million communications of French citizens reportedly being snooped in just one month by the NSA.

Spain is likely to join the alliance, after El Mundo on Monday reported that some 60 million Spanish phone calls were monitored from December to January.

The US ambassador to Madrid was summoned to the foreign ministry on Monday.

The Spanish reports are also based on documents provided by Snowden.

The White House has declined to comment on the matter.

But a Republican congressman, Mike Rogers, told CNN that Europeans should be grateful for the mass surveillance.

“If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks. It’s a good thing. It keeps the French safe. It keeps the US safe. It keeps our European allies safe,” he said.

Merkel to seek intelligence rule book with US

France and Germany plan to negotiate an agreement on the work of intelligence agencies with the US, as the latest revelations of US snooping dominated day one of the EU's October summit.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession

Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have demanded to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania this year, as Hungary's man prepares to take over the enlargement portfolio.

News in Brief

  1. Apple and Ireland appeal €13bn EU tax ruling
  2. UK PM should provide witness statement, court told
  3. Italy's ex-PM Renzi quits ruling Democratic Party
  4. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  5. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  6. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  7. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  8. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us