Key German and U.S. national security officials are meeting in Washington Wednesday over allegations that American spies tapped into the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The German delegation includes Ms. Merkel's intelligence coordinator, Guenter Heiss. They were set to meet at the White House with U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper, national security adviser Susan Rice and other officials.
Washington says it is not now listening in on Ms. Merkel's calls and won't in the future, but has brushed off questions whether it has monitored her calls in the past, possibly as far back as 2002, three years before she became the German leader. Chancellor Merkel voiced her personal protest about the U.S. surveillance of her cell phone in a call last week to President Barack Obama, saying such snooping among friends cannot be condoned.
Now, Berlin wants the U.S., along with France, to agree by the end of the year to a "no spying" deal among the allies.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament's civil liberties committee continues its visit to Washington, meeting with a European affairs specialist with the National Security Agency. They are set to discuss the impact the spying scandal has had on European citizens.
The head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, told a U.S. congressional panel Tuesday that reports that it collected telephone records of millions of Europeans are completely false.
Alexander said that European spy agencies shared those records with the NSA, part of their joint effort to defend U.S. and European forces in the field and citizens at home.
"To be perfectly clear, this is not information that we collected on European citizens. It represents information that we and our NATO allies have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations."
The NSA chief said European newspapers misinterpreted documents stolen from the NSA by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the U.S. fugitive now living in asylum in Russia.
Reports that the NSA collected U.S. phone records and monitored communications of 35 world leaders have outraged foreign governments.
But Alexander said the NSA's massive worldwide collection of telephone and Internet data stopped 13 terrorist plots in the United States and 25 plots in Europe in recent years.
Intelligence chief Clapper told the U.S. lawmakers that collecting information about foreign leaders is a "basic tenet" of U.S. spying. He said it is necessary to know the policies of foreign leaders and how their intentions might affect the U.S.
When Clapper was asked if U.S. allies also have spied on the United States, he said, "Absolutely."
Clapper called Snowden's disclosures "extremely damaging to our ability to protect the country." But he said "we do not spy indiscriminately," only for "valid intelligence purposes."