The White House’s Non-Denial Denial Of Charges That Angela Merkel’s Phone Was Monitored


Reports began circulating today that the National Security Agency may have been monitoring the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

The German government says Chancellor Angela Merkel has called President Barack Obama after receiving information that U.S. intelligence may have targeted her mobile phone.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel made clear in Wednesday’s call that “she views such practices, if the indications are confirmed … as completely unacceptable” and called for U.S. authorities to clarify the extent of surveillance in Germany.

A statement from Seibert said the German government “has received information that the chancellor’s cellphone may be monitored by American intelligence.” The government wouldn’t elaborate but news magazine Der Spiegel, which has published material from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, said its research triggered the response.

The White House has denied the story and released this readout of a phone conversation today between Merkel and President Obama:

Today, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel spoke by telephone regarding allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted the communications of the German Chancellor.  The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.

The United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges. As the President has said, the United States is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly balance the security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

Both leaders agreed to intensify further the cooperation between our intelligence services with the goal of protecting the security of both countries and of our partners, as well as protecting the privacy of our citizens

You notice what’s missing? The U.S. is not monitoring Merkel’s communications, and will not do so in the future. There’s no mention of what may have been done in the past is there? I’m sure Merkel noticed it too.

I doubt this will amount to much of anything, as we’ve discussed before, nations spying on each other is nothing new, and that includes allies. Nonetheless, there’s often a bit of kabuki theater that everyone has to go through when these matters become public.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Intelligence, National Security, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Given a choice I bet Merkel takes the wire-tapping over Bush’s shoulder rubbing…………

  2. Rob in CT says:


  3. MstrB says:

    So who is the lucky staffer at the NSA who got to monitor Silvio Berlusconi’s communications?

  4. walt moffett says:

    At some point, somebody is going to have to stand up, admit it happened on their watch, ask forgiveness and pledge not to get caught again.

  5. bill says:

    @walt moffett: they should, but they won’t- admitting fault isn’t in their mantra.

  6. An Interested Party says:
  7. An Interested Party says:

    they should, but they won’t- admitting fault isn’t in their mantra.

    A trait they’ve obviously learned from their illustrious predecessors…

  8. Franklin says:

    Interesting story, but this isn’t going to help the rest of us who are being spied on all the time. At best they’ll develop a gentlemen’s (& ladies’) agreement not to spy on each other’s heads of state. Which won’t be followed by anyone.

  9. bill says:

    @An Interested Party: 5 yrs later- you need some new material.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    5 yrs later- you need some new material.

    Try to pay attention, sweetie…the point is that each new president gets blasted for doing the same things that most of his immediate predecessors did…it’s the same pattern over and over and over again…as for new material, you could try to dig up some yourself…at this point, we really know exactly how you feel about Obama…you’re just repeating yourself over and over and over again…