US spied on Merkel 'since 2002'
THE United States may have bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone for more than 10 years, according to a news report on Saturday that also said US President Barack Obama told the German leader he would have stopped it had he known about it.
Germany's outrage over reports of bugging of Dr Merkel's phone by the US National Security Agency (NSA) prompted it to summon the US ambassador this week for the first time in living memory, an unprecedented post-war diplomatic rift.
Despite reports that Mr Obama had denied knowledge of the bugging, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper quoted US sources as saying that NSA chief Keith Alexander had briefed the US President on the operation against the German leader in 2010.
"Obama did not halt the operation but, rather, let it continue," the newspaper quoted a high-ranking NSA official as saying.
Der Spiegel said Dr Merkel's mobile phone had been listed by the NSA's Special Collection Service (SCS) since 2002 - marked as "GE Chancellor Merkel".
In an SCS document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a "not legally registered spying branch" at the US Embassy in Berlin, the exposure of which would lead to "grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government".
From there, the US tapped communications in Berlin's government district.
Quoting a secret document from 2010, Der Spiegel said such branches existed in about 80 locations around the world, including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters marched on Capitol Hill in Washington on Saturday, to protest against the US government's online surveillance programmes.