BERLIN (TIP): German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff will meet the US ambassador on July 2 to discuss allegations that US spies bugged senior government ministers, a German government source said.
In the latest twist in an ongoing scandal over extensive US spying in Europe which has caused outrage in Germany, media reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had bugged the economy and finance ministers.
“The Chancellor’s Chief of Staff has invited US Ambassador John Emerson to a meeting because of the new bugging revelations. The conversation is due to take place on Thursday afternoon,” the source told Reuters.
Privacy is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany due to its experience of extensive surveillance by the Stasi secret police during the Cold War and the Gestapo in the Nazi era. The scandal, triggered by revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has caused a chill in relations between Berlin and Washington.
Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily and broadcasting network ARD reported that the NSA targeted 69 telephone and fax numbers in the German government administration.
They based their reports on documents released on the Wikileaks website.
Among the officials targeted were the economy minister and as well as several deputy ministers, the reports said.Asked about the reports, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he was most worried by the risks of industrial espionage, particularly given the links his ministry has to companies.
“It is an absurd carry-on,” Gabriel told ARD television.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, responsible for security issues, said Germany would look at the latest allegations.
“We have become more distrustful,” he said.
The role of Germany’s spies has also been in the spotlight since reports surfaced earlier this year that its BND foreign intelligence agency had cooperated with the NSA.