German Spy Chiefs to Head to US for Talks

German Spy Chiefs to Head to US for Talks

(AP) German spy chiefs to head to US for talks
By JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG and GEIR MOULSON
Associated Press
BRUSSELS
German spy chiefs will travel to Washington shortly to talk with U.S. officials about the spying allegations that have so angered Europe, including whether Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone was monitored by the National Security Agency.

The heads of Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies will participate in the talks with the White House and the NSA, German government spokesman Georg Streiter announced Friday.

Streiter did not give a specific date for the trip, saying it was being arranged on “relatively short notice.” He said the exact composition of the team was still being determined.

European Union leaders, meeting Friday at a summit in Brussels, vowed to maintain a strong trans-Atlantic partnership despite their anger over allegations of widespread U.S. spying on allies. Still, France and Germany are insisting the United States agree upon new surveillance rules with them this year to stop U.S. eavesdropping on their leaders, innocent civilians and companies.


A White House National Security Council spokeswoman said the Germans would be welcome but did not address what concessions the U.S. was prepared to offer to tamp down the spying debacle that the Guardian newspaper reports may have involved up to 35 foreign leaders.


Several European leaders noted the continent’s close political and commercial ties to the U.S. must be protected as EU nations demand more assurances from the Obama administration.



Merkel complained to President Barack Obama on Wednesday after her government received information that her cellphone may have been monitored. Merkel and Hollande insisted that, beyond being fully briefed on what happened in the past, the European allies and Washington need to set up common rules for U.S. surveillance that does not impede the fundamental rights of its allies.


The German visit to Washington aims primarily to clear up what happened in the past. Streiter, the German spokesman, said details of negotiations on a future spying agreement between Germany, France and the U.S. were still being worked out.


The United States already has a written intelligence-sharing agreement with Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand known as “Five Eyes.” France and Germany be interested in that program or a similar deal, but it is not clear the U.S. would be willing to agree to that. Still, the spying controversy has given the Europeans extra leverage in upcoming trade talks with the U.S.

Unlike Germany, France and Belgium, Britain has not complained publicly about NSA actions. Britain and the U.S. enjoy a strong, mutually beneficial intelligence-sharing program, and Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman has refused to comment on the controversy.

The White House may soon face other irked heads of state and government. British newspaper The Guardian said it obtained a confidential memo suggesting the NSA was able to monitor 35 world leaders’ communications in 2006.

The memo said the NSA encouraged senior officials at the White House, Pentagon and other agencies to share their contacts so the spy agency could add foreign leaders’ phone numbers to its surveillance systems, the report said.

Obama’s adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco, wrote in an editorial published on the USA Today website that the U.S. government is not operating “unrestrained.”

The U.S. intelligence community has more restrictions and oversight than any other country, she wrote.


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Robert Wielaard in Brussels, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Gregory Katz in London and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.


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