In January, US president Barack Obama banned national spying on the leaders of nations that are close allies, but that doesn’t mean the US has stopped spying in friendly countries. Rather than target German chancellor Angela Merkel, the US National Security Agency is now spying on over 300 German politicians and businesspeople, including some of her top aides, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported reported over the weekend, citing an unnamed NSA employee.
Targets reportedly include Karl Ernst Thomas de Maiziere, the minister of the interior and a Merkel confidante, and many business leaders. “We have had the order not to miss out on any information,” the NSA employee told the paper.
American intelligence has been using the US Embassy in Berlin as a “listening station” Der Spiegel reported last year, staffed with agents posing as diplomats. They relied on “window-like indentations on the roof” that were painted to blend into the surrounding masonry and conceal interception technology, to eavesdrop on Merkel’s ever-present mobile phone. Merkel roundly condemned the reported surveillance. “Spying between friends, that’s just not done,” she said at a European Union summit in Brussels in October, adding later that the US-Germany relations were strained by the accusations. She’s unlikely to appreciate spying on friends of friends, either.