Just one day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the United States of monitoring on her mobile phone, The Guardian reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) “monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.”
The Guardian's information again came from their whistleblower source Edward Snowden, and was just the latest information gleaned from his leaked documents, which have already detailed extensive phone, wireless carrier and Internet monitoring.
Citing a classified document dated October 2006 and provided by Snowden, The Guardian said
The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its "customer" departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their "Rolodexes" so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.
A single unnamed U.S. official, the document said, provided more than 200 phone numbers to the NSA, including those of the "35 world leaders." Although none of those leaders is named in the memo, notably, these subjects were immediately "tasked" for monitoring by the NSA.
Speaking on Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney admitted that the revelations over the NSA's spying practices have strained relationship with other global powers. He said:
The [NSA] revelations have clearly caused tension in our relationships with some countries, and we are dealing with that through diplomatic channels. These are very important relations both economically and for our security, and we will work to maintain the closest possible ties.
Merkel suspected her phone was being surveilled after discovering her cell phone number included in a U.S. document. In a phone call to U.S. President Barack Obama, Merkel declared her expectations for future such activity, and was quite clear, saying:
The [German] federal government, as a close ally and partner of the US, expects in the future a clear contractual basis for the activity of the services and their co-operation.
Merkel has not made any direct statements in the wake of the Thursday report, but Thomas de Maizière, Germany’s defense minister, was critical of America’s practices.
If that is true, what we hear, then that would be really bad. It really can’t work like this. We can’t simply go back to business as usual.