Thursday, 24 October 2013

GERMANY-U.S.: The US tapped German Chancellor's cell phone?

The newest allegations of US spying have unleashed a torrent of criticism and concern in Europe. If suspicions unearthed that the US tapped Chancellor Merkel's cell phone turn out to be true, the ramifications for trans-Atlantic ties could be immense. Even diplomatic relations between France and the US have been strained following reports that millions of French calls had been monitored by US intelligence agencies.
 
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle took the unusual step Thursday morning of summoning the US ambassador, John B. Emerson, who is set to meet with the minister today. But the new allegations also cast a new light on Obama and the US intelligence community. During his visit to Germany, the US president grandly promised a trustful cooperation. But even Merkel now seems to have lost her belief in that. It's hard to even imagine how Obama's intelligence services deal with hostile states when one sees how they behave toward their closest allies.
 
Even if the cell-phone allegation turns out to be false, it doesn't change anything of the substance. The real central issue is that a threshold has already been crossed. No one can and must be indignant that a global power like the US has such an efficient information-gathering service. But, in the sensitive area of security, the monstrous possibilities offered by modern technologies oblige states to work alongside friendly and allied countries with the maximum degree of coordination, with respect to the limits and rules that should govern such activities.
 
On Wednesday, Jay Carney found himself in particularly treacherous territory when he was asked during a press briefing whether US intelligence services had monitored the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of one of America's staunchest allies. Carney read from a prepared statement. He said that Obama had spoken on the telephone with Merkel to discuss the accusations, and that the president has assured the chancellor that the United States "is not monitoring and will not monitor" her communications. "The United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges," he added.
 
There is really no reason for reassurance if one listens closely to what Obama's spokesman Carney said. Again: "The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel." That statement is made in the present and future tenses. But what about the past? Has Merkel's phone been under surveillance in the past, or not?
 
If the accusations are substantiated, Obama will be in an extremely tight spot. On Monday, the US president spoke on the phone with his French counterpart Fran├žois Hollande, who also expressed "deep disapproval" after French daily Le Monde reported that the NSA had eavesdropped on more than 70 million private phone calls of people in France. Washington rejected the report as flawed. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and the Mexican government also protested alleged eavesdropping on their private communications.

Obama is increasingly putting the credibility of the US on the line, even with the country's allies -- all the while calling for America to go back to using its "soft power." The repeated line from the US government that all intelligence services employ similar methods is hardly believable any longer. One thing has become clear: Not all intelligence services have the same capabilities as those of the United States.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: AFP-US President Barack Obama & German Chancellor Angela Merkel, drinking French Campagne