Oct 29, 2013

    Obama unaware of Merkel spying

    TRANSATLANTIC tensions reached boiling point yesterday as Washington sharply denied reports that United States President Barack Obama knew US spies were tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, but fresh allegations emerged of mass snooping in Spain.

    As outrage over secret US surveillance of leaders and average citizens mounted with a tide of new reports, a delegation from the European Parliament was due in Washington to demand answers on the extent of the operations.

    The trip coincided with a Spanish newspaper report citing a leaked document indicating US security services tracked 60.5 million telephone calls in Spain in a single month.

    And it came on the heels of a Wall Street Journal article that said Mr Obama learnt of the electronic surveillance of Dr Merkel and other world leaders in an internal mid-year review.

    The White House then ordered an end to the programmes, according to the Journal.

    The German media had reported on the weekend that eavesdropping on Dr Merkel's phone may have started in 2002, when she was Germany's main opposition leader and three years before she became chancellor.

    And the daily Bild am Sonntag quoted US intelligence sources as saying that Mr Obama himself had been informed of the phone tap on Dr Merkel by National Security Agency (NSA) chief Keith Alexander in 2010, but allowed it to continue.

    NSA spokesman Vanee Vines, however, denied the allegation.

    According to the Journal, Mr Obama was "briefed on and approved of broader intelligence-collection 'priorities'", but deputies decided on specific targets.

    An unnamed official told the Journal: "These decisions are made at NSA."