European Union lawmakers have begun a series of meetings aimed at confronting U.S. officials about allegations of widespread American spying on their allies.
The 23-member European Parliament delegation met Monday with U.S. lawmakers and officials in several government agencies, including the National Security Council at the White House. The talks are scheduled to extend through Wednesday.
U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein on Monday called for a `"total review'' of all U.S. intelligence programs in response to the allegations, which the California Democrat said she was not told about.
But even with diplomatic efforts under way, European officials continue to look for a way to pressure the U.S. to provide details of past surveillance. They also want assurances that the practice will be curbed.
German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger suggested severing U.S. access to an important law enforcement tool used to track terrorist money flows. The SWIFT agreement, signed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, allows the U.S. access to funds transferred through the private, Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which handles the movement of money between banks worldwide.
In recent days, European leaders have denounced reports of National Security Agency spying on allies, including monitoring of the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the latest outcry, Spain denounced the snooping as "inappropriate and unacceptable."
The Spanish foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador James Costos for a 45-minute meeting in Madrid within hours of reports in two Spanish newspapers that the U.S. tracked more than 60 million Spanish phone calls in a single month.
El Mundo and El Pais reported that the NSA monitored the calls last December 10 through January 8 of this year. The reports said the U.S. collected the numbers of the calls and their duration, but not their content.
El Mundo says the surveillance also included intrusions into personal information through Internet browsers, email and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
The reports were based on some of the documents leaked by former U.S. national security contractor Edward Snowden, a U.S. fugitive now living in Russia. In recent days, European media have reported similar U.S. spying on France, and that Chancellor Merkel's cellphone was monitored for several years, along with spying on 34 other world leaders.
Germany says it will soon send its intelligence chiefs to Washington to demand answers about the spying. Chancellor Merkel called U.S. President Barack Obama last week to voice her personal protest, saying that international friends cannot condone such snooping.
The NSA says it engages in spying to try to thwart terrorist attacks. But it said Sunday that on Mr. Obama's order, it is reviewing its intelligence gathering operations. The secretive agency said it is seeking "to ensure that we properly account for the security concerns of our citizens and allies, and the privacy concerns that all people share."
A leading U.S. newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, reported that Mr. Obama went nearly five years without knowing that his own spies were bugging the phones of the world leaders, including Chancellor Merkel, and that the program has now ended.
The newspaper, in a report Monday citing anonymous U.S. officials, said the president learned of the snooping after ordering an internal review a few months ago. The White House said it is not monitoring Ms. Merkel's mobile phones and will not do so in the future. But it has declined comment on whether the NSA spied on her devices in the past.
The Wall Street Journal account says the review uncovered that the NSA had tapped the phones of the world leaders, and that the NSA ended most of the program after the White House learned of the operation.
Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it would not have been practical to brief the president on all of them.
Bild am Sonntag quoted Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich Sunday as saying the allegations have "shaken" Berlin's trust in Washington, a longtime ally.
Friedrich told the newspaper that "if the Americans intercepted mobile phone communications in Germany, they broke German law," and said that would be an "unacceptable violation of German sovereignty."
Former NSA contractor Snowden leaked documents earlier this year purporting to show sweeping U.S. surveillance of Internet searches and telephone records of U.S. citizens and world leaders.
Germany is working with Brazil on a draft U.N. General Assembly resolution to guarantee privacy in electronic communications. U.N. diplomats say it would call for extending the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to Internet activities, but would not mention the United States.