After all of the concern about Obama’s spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, it looks like the NSA has been spying on her phone since 2002. Yeah, that’s right. Her phone got bugged under the massage artist formerly known as President George W Bush.
Reuters reported Saturday that a Der Spiegel report said Merkel’s phone had been listed by the NSA since 2002. They also reported that President Obama said he didn’t know about it and would have stopped it if he had:
The United States may have bugged Angela Merkel’s phone for more than 10 years, according to a news report on Saturday that also said President Barack Obama told the German leader he would have stopped it happening had he known about it.
Der Spiegel said Merkel’s mobile telephone had been listed by the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) since 2002 – marked as “GE Chancellor Merkel” – and was still on the list weeks before Obama visited Berlin in June….
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung also said Obama had told Merkel he had not known of the bugging.
Cue the incredulous denial by Americans who still believe that the President is in charge of the NSA, the Pentagon, the CIA, and other secretive and powerful agencies devoted to our “protection”.
The agency admitted it had not legally registered the spying branch:
In an SCS document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the U.S. embassy in Berlin, the exposure of which would lead to “grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government”.
From there, NSA and CIA staff were tapping communication in the Berlin’s government district with high-tech surveillance.
Of course the NSA doesn’t tell President Obama certain things, for his sake (plausible deniability) as well as the fact that he might object and that would be awkward. Frankly this is just embarrassing all the way around, especially after the White House’s carefully crafted rebuttal days ago that they would not be spying on Merkel’s phone in the future and were not now spying on her phone (note no reference to the past):
The White House responded that Merkel’s mobile is not being tapped. “The president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,” said a statement from Jay Carney, the White House spokesman
I’m not so sure I’d believe that if I were Merkel. Maybe Obama can get them to stop spying on Merkel for now, so long as he is in office, but will they be asking permission next time and will they stop bugging others’ phones?
These agencies don’t ask permission from anyone, and as much fun as it would be to pin spying on Merkel’s phone on Bush since it started under him, I doubt anyone serious about protecting this country would have asked his permission for anything. Not because he would have denied permission – this sort of thing was right up his alley, but because he didn’t need to know. That is not to suggest that certain members of his administration (waving at Dick Cheney) were not informed or even behind such policies.
The purposeful friction between the public’s demand for transparency and national security’s need for secrecy is ongoing and will never end. If we don’t stand up to the power grabs and the elected officials support them, they grow even larger. But they will never go away — they are not supposed to go away.
We’ve been spying on Merkel’s phone since 2002. Should we hold our breath to await the same outrage aimed at Obama to be aimed at Bush now? Oh, I kid. Let’s not falsely equate lies about WMD or W’s egregious abuse of “terror” levels used as Republican assistance during elections with the ugly truth about national security operations.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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