News / Europe

The Guardian: US Spied on 35 World Leaders

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and France's President Francois Hollande attend a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Oct. 24, 2013.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and France's President Francois Hollande attend a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Oct. 24, 2013.
Kent Klein
The Guardian newspaper reports that White House, Pentagon and State Department officials confirm the United States spied on the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.

The latest report comes as European leaders have united behind a furious Germany to denounce the United States for allegations it spied on its allies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she has made it clear to U.S. President Barack Obama that spying on allies is unacceptable.

Speaking Thursday as she arrived at a summit of the European Union's 28 leaders in Brussels, Merkel said she told Obama during a telephone call Wednesday that "spying on friends is not acceptable at all."

"We need to have trust in our allies and partners and this trust must now be established once again," she said.      

The two leaders spoke Wednesday after allegations emerged that the U.S. National Security Agency had monitored Merkel's cell phone calls. During Wednesday's telephone call, Obama told Merkel the United States is not monitoring, and will not monitor her communications.

US ambassador summoned

Merkel summoned U.S. Ambassador John Emerson to meet Thursday in Berlin with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who was expected to "spell out the position of the German government."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama called Merkel on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

"All I can tell you is what the President told the chancellor. The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor," said Carney.

German officials say that explanation is not good enough, because the U.S. is not saying that it has not tapped the chancellor's phone in the past.

The U.S. also was criticized in Brussels by the leaders of Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Austria.  Mexico and Brazil are investigating whether the NSA spied on their top officials.

Hollande underscores issue

French President Francois Hollande wanted the U.S. spying matter put on the EU agenda. His foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, pressed Secretary of State John Kerry on the issue this week.

"We, of course, agree to have cooperation in the fight against terrorism. This is essential. But this does not justify the act of listening to the personal data of millions of our compatriots," said Fabius.

Fabius said France agrees to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, but that does not justify listening to the personal data of millions of people.

James Andrew Lewis is the director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said European reaction to the alleged U.S. spying is politically motivated, but it could damage the alliances nonetheless.

"A lot of it is for public consumption, but it's for their public. Their publics are angry, and the big problem we're looking at is there's been a change in European public opinion about the United States for the worse because of these spying scandals," he said.

Full disclosure and partnering

Lewis believes Washington should do a better job of addressing allies' anger about NSA activities.

"We need a different policy than not commenting on this publicly, and I know it's going to be difficult to come up with an explanation, but the U.S. needs to address the concerns of its European allies, and if we don't do that, we'll only see further harm to the Transatlantic relationship," said Lewis.

NSA Director Keith Alexander, who has announced plans to retire, recently said U.S. allies appreciate the data gathering because it also protects their countries from terror attacks.

"Many people have asked me, how has this impacted your relationship with allies? Here is what I get: 'Keep working with us. The intelligence you get us to defend our country is what we really need,'" said Alexander.

Many of the reports of NSA spying on allies came from leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Germany's defense minister said that if the alleged surveillance is confirmed, the U.S. and Germany could not simply return to business as usual.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: don muntean from: Saskatchewan
October 24, 2013 10:17 AM
Of course I have been fighting the worst such abuse known - for over 11 years - I'm not unconvinced that there isn't some NSA connections to this matter - of course no one cares about the little guy - even though our society is made up of the little guy. So advice for everyone: say goodbye to privacy!

by: BarleySinger
October 24, 2013 6:46 AM
The idea that this sort of intelligence gathering is normal, is not true. Where I live in Australia we have a PRIVACY COMMISSION who would go ballistic over this sort of thing. I can walk down the street without my face being tracked everywhere I go, and my whereabouts kept in a secret computer for "just in case", and my phone calls are not all being recorded (except by those grabbed by the USA). I traded the USA in for a nation with no Bill of Rights, and I am still more free than anyone in the USA has been in a long time - with my rights only respected by the government because it is the right thing to do ... because of it being the social norm here to have them. Having a Constitution and a Bill of Rights which is totally ignored is far worse than a government who gives you those rights and sees no need to write them all down. I would like them written down and followed by I want them FOLLOWED more than I want the WRITTEN

by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
October 24, 2013 6:18 AM
-----------U.S. intelligence director James Clapper issued a statement Tuesday saying the intelligence gathered by the United States is the type "gathered by all nations" as part of their efforts to combat terrorism and other threats.--------
Also, Mr. Obama says we are not monitoring nor will monitor in the future. Are we to interpret, we were doing it, but got caught and so we won't do it again. This s goobldygook.
Does this include monitoring the leaders the Nations? How would we react if we come to know some Country is monitoring our President's calls?
Every time Clapper opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it.
Comments page of 2

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs