By Columnist Jim Kouri
While the U.S. media are giving scant coverage of the controversial spy program under President Barack Obama, the German and European Union media are in the midst of a frenzy over the report that the NSA is monitoring the cell phone communications of Chancellor Angela Merkel, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.
The German press, for example, quoted U.S. intelligence sources as saying that one of the National Security Agency’s top officials, Keith Alexander, allegedly briefed the U.S. president on an eavesdropping operation involving Merkel in 2010 and that the U.S. president allowed it to continue.
Germany’s media also claim the NSA not only “tapped” Merkel’s business mobile phone but also her official “landline.”
German and European Union officials are characterized in news stories as being outraged and angry over the spying on their leader by U.S. intelligence and they’ve labeled it a “very serious breach of trust and of German national security.”
“Can you blame (the Germans) for their reaction? While the Obama administration is ever so careful not to even call Islamic terrorists Muslims and believes terrorism is a criminal justice issue, Obama is perfectly fine with government ‘spooks’ spying on American citizens and nations deemed to be our friends,” said former intelligence officer and police commander Sid Franes.
“Then our Commander in Chief’s minions claim he didn’t know about the spying. So once again either he’s lying or he’s so out of touch and ignorant that this country is being run by bureaucrats,” said Franes.
According to news reports, German representatives are expected to visit Washington to hold meetings with members of the White House staff and U.S. intelligence leaders in the coming days.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert declared to the press that “his government has received information that the Chancellor’s cellphone is possibly being monitored by American intelligence services. We promptly addressed an inquiry to our American partners, requesting immediate and thorough clarification.”
According to Seibert, the German Chancellor spoke with President Obama by phone. She made clear that, should the information prove true, she unequivocally disapproves of such practices and views them as totally unacceptable.
She is being quoted as saying, “Among close friends and partners, such as the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States have been for decades, such monitoring of the communications of a head of government simply must not occur. This would be a serious breach of trust. Such practices would have to be stopped immediately.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed an expectation that the U.S. authorities will provide clarification about the potential dimension of such monitoring practices and answer questions that the German government already asked months ago.
The Head of the Federal Chancellery, Federal Minister Ronald Pofalla, met with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Control Panel, Thomas Oppermann, and Deputy Chairman Michael Grosse-Brömer, to inform them of the alleged claims, according to Seibert’s statement to the press.
“High-level talks also took place in Berlin with White House and U.S. State Department officials in an effort to clarify the issues. These talks must continue,” he stated.
Meanwhile, during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said:
“No one disputes the need for careful, thorough intelligence gathering. It’s not a secret that we collect information about what is happening around the world to help protect our citizens, our allies, and our homeland. So does every intelligence service in the world. There are conversations that have been ongoing with a range of partners around the world about these activities, including over the past week or so.
“Our capabilities – while our capabilities are unmatched, the U.S. Government is not operating unrestrained. Three branches of government – all three branches of government play a role in overseeing our intelligence activities, and though we collect the same sort of intelligence as all nations, our intelligence community has more restrictions and oversight than any of these country – than any other country in history.”