BERLIN // The US president, Barack Obama, was informed of phone tapping of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, which may have begun as early as 2002, German media reported yesterday as a damaging espionage scandal widened.
The Bild am Sonntag newspaper quoted US intelligence sources as saying that the National Security Agency chief, Keith Alexander, had briefed Mr Obama on the operation against Merkel in 2010.
“Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,” the newspaper quoted a high-ranking NSA official as having said.
News weekly Der Spiegel reported that leaked NSA documents showed that Ms Merkel’s phone had appeared on a list of spying targets since 2002 and was still under surveillance weeks before Obama visited Berlin in June.
As a sense of betrayal spread in many world capitals allegedly targeted by the NSA, European leaders are calling for a new deal with Washington on intelligence gathering that would maintain an essential alliance while keeping the fight against terrorism on track.
Germany is to send its own spy chiefs to Washington soon to demand answers.
Several thousand protesters gathered in Washington on Saturday to push for new US legislation to curb the NSA’s activities.
Ms Merkel confronted Mr Obama with the snooping allegations in a phone call on Wednesday and said that such spying would be a “breach of trust” between international partners.
The suspicion also prompted Berlin to summon the US ambassador – a highly unusual move between the close allies.
* Agence France-Presse