08:23 Thursday 24th October 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[D]OTTY MCLEOD: The German Government says it suspects US intelligence agencies may have been spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone calls. It’s absolutely extraordinary. Mrs Merkel spoke to President Obama and asked for an immediate and comprehensive explanation. The language of Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman was strong, saying there needed to be “immediate clarification”, and talking of “a breach of trust”. A White House spokesman Jay Carney told supporters that Mr Obama had assured Mrs Merkel that the US wasn’t listening to her phone calls.
JAY CARNEY: I can tell you that today President Obama and Chancellor Merkel spoke by telephone. I can tell you that the President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not not monitor the communications of the Chancellor. The United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges. As the President has said, the US is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence, to ensure that we properly balance the security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.”
DOTTY MCLEOD: The issue of state monitoring of phone calls is a real one in Germany. Angela Merkel grew up after all in East Germany, where phone tapping was pervasive. Michael Steininger, a freelance journalist based in Berlin says it’s interesting she’s taken such a strong line on this.
MICHAEL STEININGER: Mrs Merkel is not known for any rash reactions. The fact that she gets on the phone and calls President Obama herself I think shows how upset she must be. Now the irony in this is that for the last few months she has been accused by many in Germany of not taking the NSA spying affair seriously.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well according to the BBC’s Washington correspondent Katy Watson, for President Obama it’s another awkward conversation he’s had to have with another Head of State this week.
KATY WATSON: It comes just in the same week as he’s had to deal with France. The French President called Obama earlier this week, after the French newspaper Le Monde reported that the National Security Agency has collected tens of thousands of French phone records in just a single month. So this is just another slightly more difficult diplomatic incident, trying to justify the US surveillance techniques.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So an EU summit is due to begin in Brussels. Some EU leaders likely to want to use the summit to demand further clarification from Washington over the activities of its National Security Agency in Europe. The NSA being very very controversial in recent weeks. You had the leaks from Edward Snowden, saying that the NSA surveys a lot more than people might think. Maybe it’s something that you worry about. Do you worry about who’s reading your emails? I think if anybody read my emails they’d be sorely disappointed. They’re either spam that I don’t want from places offering me vouchers and places offering me one-off sales at a shop I never want to shop in anyway, and just nonsense. Completely boring things. Things between me and my family, talking about when we’re going to see each other next. Nobody would want to read my emails, but I can see that for the German Chancellor, the interception of phone calls might be a worry. America of course saying this certainly hasn’t been happening. More on that I’m sure in the coming days.