Angela Merkel is still using the same cell phone, and she is still angry about revelations that the US government allegedly monitored her calls. A personal phone chat last week with President Obama was apparently not enough to make her feel better, especially in light of the latest disclosures. She is not ready to put US-European trade talks on hold. Not yet. But Saturday she again demanded fast action on a “no-spy” treaty between the US and Europe.
The US currently has such an agreement with four countries — Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. That alliance, referred to as “Five Eyes”, dates back to the end of World War II.
Angela Merkel says she’s not concerned that surreptitious listeners will hear anything startling. The German chancellor claims that she is very consistent in her stated positions and that everyone listening to her will hear the same thing. Her big concern is trust. For the record, Merkel says she has no definitive evidence that her phone was tapped, only that indications increasingly point in that direction.
New revelations published this weekend in the German media will probably not make her feel better. Bild am Sonntag is reporting that President Obama has known all along that Merkel’s phone was bugged. The paper says that the head of the NSA told the President about it, and that Mr Obama did not order it stopped. And there’s more. Der Spiegel reports that the US has been tracking Angela Merkel’s phone since 2002, three years before taking over as chancellor. Not only were they collecting her phone data, they were reportedly capturing text messages as well. Bild also reports that Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder was subject to NSA monitoring. According to Der Spiegel, the US electronic eavesdropping network encompasses 80 listening posts worldwide, and 19 of those are located in European capitals. One of them is in Berlin.
Angela Merkel actually uses two phones. The one the NSA tracked is a four-year-old Nokia. Despite her anger, she maintains that she will keep using it. Her second phone is a special encrypted device that she uses for government business.
The revelations, the latest of the embarrassing data released by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have caused upset across Germany. During their private call last week, the President reportedly assured the Chancellor that the US was not currently tracking her phone and would not do so in the future. Now there are growing calls in Germany for the President to offer a public apology.
Since the revelations came to light, intelligence experts in the US and elsewhere have maintained that everybody spies on everybody these days. That may true. But public disclosure has complicated relations with several important US allies, notably President Francois Holland of France, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and now Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The US historically has been cool to an extension of its no-spy treaty. Perhaps the upset expressed by key US allies might change that. Merkel, who grew up in East Germany during the reign of the dreaded Stasi secret police, says basic trust is the issue. She questions whether allies can work together effectively without it. A leader known for toughness, Angela Merkel is still angry, and she still intends to use the same phone.
Written by Mike Clancy