| Barack Obama ‘approved tapping Angela Merkel’s phone 3 years ago!’

Barack Obama ‘approved tapping Angela Merkel’s phone 3 years ago’ ~  , New York and Louise Barnett in Berlin, The Telegraph.

President Barack Obama was told about monitoring of German Chancellor in 2010 and allowed it to continue, says German newspaper.

Obama 'approved tapping Merkel's phone 3 years ago'

Mr Obama was told of the secret monitoring of Mrs Merkel by General Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, in 2010, according to Bild am Sonntag, a German newspaper.  Photo: AFP/GETTY

President Barack Obama was dragged into the trans-Atlantic spying row after it was claimed he personally authorised the monitoring of Angela Merkel’s phone three years ago.

The president allegedly allowed US intelligence to listen to calls from theGerman Chancellor’s mobile phone after he was briefed on the operation by Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), in 2010.

The latest claim, reported in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, followed reports in Der Spiegel that the surveillance of Mrs Merkel’s phone began as long ago as 2002, when she was still the opposition leader, three years before being elected Chancellor. That monitoring only ended in the weeks before Mr Obama visited Berlin in June this year, the magazine added.

Citing leaked US intelligence documents, it also reported that America conducted eavesdropping operations on the German government from a listening post at its embassy beside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, one of more than 80 such centres worldwide.

Mr Obama’s European allies will now ask him to say what he personally knew about the NSA’s global eavesdropping operation and its targeting of world leaders, including those from friendly states. The White House declined to comment on the German media reports.

Last week, however, Mr Obama assured Mrs Merkel that her phone is not being monitored now – and will not be in future. But the US has pointedly declined to discuss the NSA’s actions in the past.

Its surveillance operations raises questions about whether US officials breached domestic laws. Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, said: “If the Americans intercepted cellphones in Germany, they broke German law on German soil”. He noted that wiretapping was a crime in Germany and “those responsible must be held accountable”.

Even before the latest reports, German intelligence chiefs were preparing to travel to Washington this week to demand answers from the NSA about the alleged surveillance of Mrs Merkel.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, received a dose of European fury this weekend when he visited Paris and Rome. The trip was arranged to discuss the Middle East peace process, the Syrian civil war and Iran’s nuclear programme. Instead, he was confronted by outrage over the scale of US surveillance operations.

“The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us,” said Bernard Kouchner, a former French foreign minister, in a radio interview. “Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.”

According to the leaked documents in Spiegel, NSA officials acknowledged that any disclosure of the existence of the foreign listening posts would lead to “grave damage” for US relations with other governments.

Such posts exist in 19 European cities, including Paris, Madrid, Rome and Frankfurt, according to the magazine, which has based its reports on documents provided by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

Mr Obama did not comment, but Republican supporters of the US intelligence community began a fightback on the political talk-shows.

Mike Rogers, the chairman of the intelligence committee in the House of Representatives, said that America’s allies should be grateful for surveillance operations which targeted terrorist threats. “I would argue by the way, if the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks,” he told CNN’s State of the Union.

“It’s a good thing. it keeps the French safe. It keeps the US safe. It keeps our European allies safe.”

Peter King, a fellow Republican congressman, said that Mr Obama should not apologise for NSA operations in Europe. “The president should stop apologising, stop being defensive,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “The reality is the NSA has saved thousands of lives not just in the United States but in France, Germany and throughout Europe. Quite frankly, the NSA has done so much for our country and so much for the president, he’s the commander in chief. He should stand with the NSA.”

John Schindler, a former NSA official, noted that planning for the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001 had taken place in Hamburg.

“If 9/11 had happened to Germany and been planned in NY not Hamburg, I’d expect [German] intel to monitor USA top 2 bottom,” he wrote on Twitter.

A German intelligence official, quoted by Die Welt, said: “The Americans did not want to rely exclusively on us after September 11th. That is understandable.”

Another told the newspaper: “Without information from the Americans, there would have been successful terrorist attacks in Germany in the past years.”

More from The Telegraph

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| EU to hold Brussels summit amid US spying row!

EU to hold Brussels summit amid US spying row ~ BBC.

An EU summit is due to begin in Brussels with fresh allegations of US spying threatening to overshadow talks.

It comes a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel called President Barack Obama over claims that the US had monitored her mobile phone.

France’s President Francois Hollande is pressing for the issue to be put on the agenda following reports that millions of French calls had been monitored.

EU leaders will also discuss Europe’s economic recovery and immigration.

BBC Europe Editor Gavin Hewitt says some leaders are likely to want to use the summit to demand further clarification from Washington over the activities of its National Security Agency (NSA) in Europe.

Angela Merkel uses mobile phone. (File image)
Angela Merkel has asked for an “immediate explanation” from the US.

EU summit agenda

Thursday

  • First session (18:15 local; 16:15 GMT): Digital economy, innovation and services – including the creation of a “digital single market” and improving ICT skills
  • Working dinner (20:15 local): Economic and social policy and the economic and monetary union – including youth unemployment, financing of the economy (in particular SMEs) and co-ordination of economic policies across the EU

Friday

  • Second session (10:00 local): Migratory flows and preparations for Eastern Partnership summit
  • News conference (tbc)

The US is being called to account by its allies over allegations of spying based on material said to originate from fugitive American leaker Edward Snowden.

Mrs Merkel says she wants US officials to clarify the extent of their surveillance in Germany.

Her spokesman said the German leader “views such practices… as completely unacceptable”.

Mrs Merkel demanded an “immediate and comprehensive explanation”, said Steffen Seibert in a statement.

“Among close friends and partners, as the Federal Republic of Germany and the US have been for decades, there should be no such monitoring of the communications of a head of government,” the statement added.

Veteran French EU Commissioner, Michel Barnier, told the BBC that “enough is enough”, and confidence in the US had been shaken.

Mr Barnier, the commissioner for internal market and services, said Europe must not be naive but develop its own strategic digital tools, such as a “European data cloud” independent of American oversight.

The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Berlin says Germany’s morning papers echo a sense of outrage.

A front-page commentary in Thursday’s Suddeutscher Zeitung – one of the country’s most respected papers – refers to the “biggest affront”.

It says an attack on Angela Merkel’s mobile phone would be an attack on “her political heart”.

White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that President Obama had “assured” Chancellor Merkel that the US was not monitoring her phone.

The White House said President Obama had told Mrs Merkel that the US was not monitoring her calls and would not in the future.

However, it left open the question of whether calls had been listened to in the past.

State-monitoring of phone calls has a particular resonance in Germany – Mrs Merkel herself grew up in East Germany, where phone-tapping was pervasive.

In July, German media carried comments by Edward Snowden suggesting the US National Security Agency worked closely with Germany and other Western states on a “no questions asked” basis, monitoring Germans’ internet traffic, emails and phone calls.

“They [the NSA] are in bed with the Germans, just like with most other Western states,” Mr Snowden was quoted as saying by Der Spiegel magazine – though Mrs Merkel denied any knowledge of the collaboration.

In June, President Obama assured Chancellor Merkel that German citizens were not being routinely spied upon. At the time, she was criticised by her political opponents for not being more sceptical.

Meanwhile, a major focus of the summit will be to boost the digital economy – seen as vital for growth – while UK Prime Minister David Cameron will want red tape cut for businesses.


Discussions on telecoms, copyright, data protection, credit card payments and digital signatures can appear dry but are all central to what potentially will be the fastest growing economic sector in the future.”

image of Gavin Hewitt
Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

With markets becalmed, Spain coming out of recession and Ireland soon to exit its bailout programme, there are signs of progress for Europe’s leaders to celebrate, says our correspondent.

But they recognise that the recovery is fragile and solid growth is needed.

One of the key initiatives of the European Commission is its Digital Agenda for Europe, which it says “aims to reboot Europe’s economy and help Europe’s citizens and businesses to get the most out of digital technologies”.

Council officials say investment in the digital economy is vital to boost growth. They want to address market fragmentation and a perceived shortage in IT skills.

They may also discuss telecoms reform, data protection and a cap on credit card payments.

Mr Cameron is likely to use the economic discussion to raise what Britain sees as a proliferation of red tape.

He said last week: “All too often EU rules are a handicap for firms,” and that small business owners “are forced to spend too much time complying with pointless, burdensome and costly regulations”.

The European Commission – which makes the rules – has recognised that it may have gone too far in some places.

Shop owner Roger George says red tape and regulations are a burden on his business.

President Jose Manuel Barroso says he wants the EU to be “big on big things and smaller on smaller things”.

He says the Commission has cut more than 5,000 legal acts in the past five years and wants to do more.

On Friday the leaders will discuss relations with central European countries, ahead of a November summit at which new agreements will be signed.

Migration will also be discussed, following the loss of hundreds of lives among migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

The commission has called on EU countries to offer “additional and urgent contributions” to prevent further tragedies at sea.

It wants greater resources to survey and patrol sea routes, but also a more co-ordinated approach to dealing with migrants.

Countries on the Mediterranean coast deal with sudden and unmanageable mass arrivals, but the countries which approve most asylum requests are Germany, France and Sweden.

The commission wants a more even resettlement of refugees.

EU sources say the leaders are likely to promise improved co-operation, but not more money or resources. They say they first want a new surveillance effort, Eurosur, to come into force, to see what effect it has.

Related Stories

| Angela Merkel’s call to Obama: Are you bugging my mobile phone?

Angela Merkel’s call to Obama: are you bugging my mobile phone? ~

Germany sees credible evidence of US monitoring of chancellor as NSA surveillance row intensifies.
*Live coverage of reaction to reports of Merkel surveillance.

The furore over the scale of American mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden shifted to an incendiary new level on Wednesday evening when Angela Merkel of Germany called Barack Obama to demand explanations over reports that the US National Security Agency was monitoring her mobile phone.

Merkel was said by informed sources in Germany to be “livid” over the reports and convinced, on the basis of a German intelligence investigation, that the reports were utterly substantiated.

The German news weekly, Der Spiegel, reported an investigation by German intelligence, prompted by research from the magazine, that produced plausible information that Merkel’s mobile was targeted by the US eavesdropping agency. The German chancellor found the evidence substantial enough to call the White House and demand clarification.

The outrage in Berlin came days after President François Hollande of France also called the White House to confront Obama with reports that the NSA was targeting the private phone calls and text messages of millions of French people.

While European leaders have generally been keen to play down the impact of the whistleblowing disclosures in recent months, events in the EU’s two biggest countries this week threatened an upward spiral of lack of trust in transatlantic relations.

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, made plain that Merkel upbraided Obama unusually sharply and also voiced exasperation at the slowness of the Americans to respond to detailed questions on the NSA scandal since the Snowden revelations first appeared in the Guardian in June.

Merkel told Obama that “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated,” Seifert said. “This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately.”

The sharpness of the German complaint direct to an American president strongly suggested that Berlin had no doubt about the grounds for protest. Seibert voiced irritation that the Germans had waited for months for proper answers from Washington to Berlin on the NSA operations.

Merkel told Obama she expected the Americans “to supply information over the possible scale of such eavesdropping practices against Germany and reply to questions that the federal government asked months ago”, Seibert said.

The White House responded that Merkel’s mobile is not being tapped. “The president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,” said a statement from Jay Carney, the White House spokesman.

But Berlin promptly signalled that the rebuttal referred to the present and the future and did not deny that Merkel’s communications had been monitored in the past.

Asked by the Guardian if the US had monitored the German chancellor’s phone in the past, a top White House official declined to deny that it had.

Caitlin Hayden, the White House’s National Security Council spokeswoman, said: “The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel. Beyond that, I’m not in a position to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity.”

Obama and Merkel, the White House said, “agreed to intensify further the co-operation between our intelligence services with the goal of protecting the security of both countries and of our partners, as well as protecting the privacy of our citizens.”

The explosive new row came on the eve of an EU summit in Brussels opening on Thursday afternoon. Following reports by Le Monde this week about the huge scale of US surveillance of France, Hollande insisted that the issue be raised at a summit which, by coincidence, is largely devoted to the “digital” economy in Europe. Hollande also phoned Obama to protest and insist on a full explanation, but received only the stock US response that the Americans were examining their intelligence practices and seeking to balance security and privacy imperatives, according to the Elysee Palace.

The French demand for a summit debate had gained little traction in Europe. On Wednesday morning, briefing privately on the business of the summit, senior German officials made minimal mention of the surveillance scandal. But by Wednesday evening that had shifted radically. The Germans publicly insisted that the activities of the US intelligence services in Europe be put on a new legal basis.

“The [German] federal government, as a close ally and partner of the USA, expects in the future a clear contractual basis for the activity of the services and their cooperation,” Merkel told Obama.

In 2009, it was reported that Merkel had fitted her phone with an encryption chip to stop it being bugged. As many as 5,250 other ministers, advisers and important civil servants were supplied with similar state-of-the-art encryption technology. Merkel is known to be a keen mobile user and has been nicknamed “die Handy-Kanzlerin” (“Handy” being the German word for mobile phone).

When asked how he had communicated with Merkel during an EU summit in Brussels in 2008, then French president Nicolas Sarkozy said: “We call each other’s mobiles and write text messages.”

Katrin Goring-Eckhart, parliamentary leader of the Greens, said: “If these allegations turn out to be true, we are dealing with an incredible scandal and an unprecedented breach of trust between the two countries, for which there can be no justification.”

On social media, a number of Germans mocked Merkel’s change of tone over the NSA affair, given her previous reluctance to talk about the controversy. Jens König, a reporter for the news weekly Stern, tweeted that it was “the first time that Merkel is showing some proper passion during the NSA affair”.

The European Commission has thrown its weight behind new European Parliament proposals for rules governing the transfer of data from Europe to America and demanded that the forthcoming summit finalise the new regime by next spring.

*Link to video: Obama assures Merkel her phone will not be monitored, says White House

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| Obama snub: Putin the hunter loses his quarry!

Putin the hunter loses his quarry ~

 

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The Snowden asylum was only one factor. Obama cancelling the summit reflects reality that the US-Russia ‘reset’ was finished.

It would be tempting – and wrong – to cast President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel a one-on-one summit with President Vladimir Putinduring his forthcoming G20 visit to St Petersburg exclusively in terms of America’s frustration at Russia‘s decision to grant temporary asylum toEdward Snowden.

That is, of course, how the Kremlin‘s ever loyal media will try to frame it – ignoring the fact that the Russia in which they live treats its own dissidents with a vindictiveness unseen for many decades. The deeper reason behind such a public rebuff is one that the Russian foreign policy establishment will find less easy to explain away.

While Putin considers himself the elder statesmen of such international gatherings, most of his former cronies on the international scene are yesterday’s men. Only Silvio Berlusconi limps on, still a senator and party leader for the time being, but his star is not exactly shining at the moment. These days, Putin is not treated abroad with the respect he thinks his political longevity deserves.

The last occasion to measure this was his trip to Hanover in April, where his German interlocutors, bristling with the fury over moves by Russian authorities to confiscate data from German-financed organisations working in Russia, gave the Russian leader in private a piece of their mind. Contrast that to the time when Putin, informed of Angela Merkel‘s fear of dogs, made sure his pet labrador was in the room when they met. Merkel no longer feels she has to court Russia.

And neither, apparently, does Obama.

This is Putin’s loss, because the architect of the “reset” policy to re-engage with Russia, Michael McFaul, who is now the US ambassador in Moscow, privately agrees that the policy he worked so hard on is now dead. The wording of the White House statement to postpone the summit is relevant in this regard.

It speaks of a lack of progress on missile defence, arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, human rights and civil society … the blockage extends right across the whole spectrum of the relationship defined by the so-called reset. While few expected much progress to be made in any of those fields, the existence of joint committees and regular meetings maintained an illusion of strategic relationship.

The reset has brought concrete benefits to the US, not least the transit of thousands of US troops over Russian airspace to the airbase it leases in Manas in Kyrgyzstan (and then onto Afghanistan). Few pragmatists in the world of foreign policy treat the reset’s demise with any glee. But if Obama is a president who wants to concentrate on those policy areas he can personally affect, his impatience with Putin says a lot about where the US thinks that relationship is headed.

The decision to forgo the summit is a blow aimed at Putin personally. It deprives the Russian leader of a valuable prop, one that tells his domestic audience it has a world leader who can measure his stature again the biggest and the best.

This summer, if the latest stunt is to be believed, Putin caught a huge pike in Siberia, 46lb in weight. If you were the president of the United States, would you really want to appear in St Petersburg as the latest quarry this big game hunter had caught?

Russian president Vladimir Putin with the pike he caught in the Tyva region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with the one that didn’t get away. Photograph: Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images
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| Germany Integration Debate: Merkel Urges More Tolerance Towards Muslims!

Integration Debate: Merkel Urges More Tolerance Towards Muslims ~ Spiegel Online International.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on her fellow citizens to exercise more tolerance toward the country’s 4 million Muslims, stating that Islam is part of Germany. People, she said, need to be careful to differentiate between extremists and the religion itself.

Germany should be more tolerant of its Muslims, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday night, calling the religion part of the country’s makeup.

“We should be very open about this and say: Yes, this is part of us,” Merkel said during a teleconference with some 7,000 members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union party.

In view of the violent protests that have taken place in recent weeks across the Muslim world against a controversial anti-Islam film and offensive Muhammad caricatures, Merkel said Germans should be careful to differentiate between Islamists and the religion itself. “We must be incredibly careful that we don’t lump everyone together,” the chancellor said. “The Islamists are not the Islam of Germany.”

Indeed, the majority of the around 4 million Muslims living in Germany have distanced themselves from the violence abroad, Merkel said, adding that those who refuse to recognize the country’s laws can naturally expect to face legal consequences.

Tunisia Trip Cancelled

Merkel’s open reception to Islam comes some two years after she was criticized for fanning the flames of the country’s immigration debate by saying that the multicultural concept had “failed utterly.” During that same speech in Oct. 2010, however, the chancellor did voice support for a widely discussed statement made just weeks before by then-President Christian Wulff, who said that Islam was “part of Germany.”

Wulff’s comments have been half-heartedly echoed by his successor Joachim Gauck, who said in May that while he wouldn’t apply the same statement, he could “embrace the intention.”

Recently the integration debate has intensified once again following a Cologne court ruling that found circumcision for religious reasons to be an indictable offense. The decision has been viewed as an affront to the country’s Muslim and Jewish communities. Just this week, the Justice Ministry presented a draft lawclarifying that the procedure is not a punishable offense.

Ahead of Merkel’s statements on Islam on Wednesday, the Chancellery announced that a planned visit to Tunisia next month had been cancelled due to the tense security situation there following violent protests against the US-produced film “Innocence of Muslims,” which insults the Prophet Muhammad. Earlier this month, protesters in Sudan set the German embassy on fire.

A minaret and a church tower in Berlin's Kreuzberg district. Zoom

A minaret and a church tower in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district.

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