“Spying among friends, that cannot be.” These were the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding alleged spying by the U.S. government on her own phone calls. But it turns out Merkel — and the few other countries that have been implicated in some of the NSA’s surveillance activities — are far from alone.
According to a new report from The Guardian based on information leaked from whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA was “tasked” with monitoring the phones of 35 world leaders, among 200 targeted phone numbers.
“In one recent case, a U.S. official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders … ,” The Guardian reported of a memo it obtained. “Despite the fact that the majority is probably available via open source, the PCs [intelligence production centers] have noted 43 previously unknown phone numbers. These numbers plus several others have been tasked.”
These leaders were not specifically named in the memo, according to The Guardian.
This surveillance, according to the memo, lead to more phone numbers that the agency was tasked with monitoring. It also stated that NSA analysts were asked to consider customers who might provide further contact information of people they knew.
“This success leads S2 to wonder if there are NSA liaisons whose supported customers may be willing to share their ‘Rolodexes’ or phone lists with NSA as potential sources of intelligence,” the memo read. “S2 welcomes such information!”
Even with this surveillance, the memo reportedly said it provided “little” intelligence.
Merkel’s comments Thursday seem especially relevant in light of these allegations.
“We need trust among allies and partners,” Merkel told reporters in Brussels. “Such trust now has to be built anew. This is what we have to think about.”
“The United States of America and Europe face common challenges. We are allies,” the German leader said. “But such an alliance can only be built on trust. That’s why I repeat again: spying among friends, that cannot be.”
Other leaders arriving for the 28-nation meeting echoed Merkel’s displeasure. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called it “completely unacceptable” for a country to eavesdrop on an allied leader.
If reports that Merkel’s cellphone had been tapped are true, “it is exceptionally serious,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told national broadcaster NOS.
“We want the truth,” Italian Premier Enrico Letta told reporters. “It is not in the least bit conceivable that activity of this type could be acceptable.”
Echoing Merkel, Austria’s foreign minister, Micheal Spindelegger, said, “We need to re-establish with the U.S. a relationship of trust, which has certainly suffered from this.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that Obama assured Merkel that “the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Featured image via Shutterstock.com.