The ongoing controversy over the U.S. government’s alleged snooping on the German chancellor’s cell phone has the White House starting the week on the defensive, with conflicting reports about what President Barack Obama knew and when.
A German newspaper reported Sunday that Obama has known about the National Security Agency monitoring Chancellor Angela Markel’s phone since 2010. But the NSA says the agency never discussed the matter with Obama, the BBC reports. And the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the NSA ended the program supposedly used to spy on Merkel and other world leaders after an internal Obama administration review revealed the existence of the program to the White House over the summer,
With the issue mushrooming into a major diplomatic headache between the U.S., Germany and other allies, the administration stepped up its insistence that Obama knew nothing, though it has yet to explicitly acknowledge that the snooping occurred in the first place. An NSA spokesperson said Sunday that agency head Gen. Keitth Alexander “did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel. News reports claiming otherwise are not true.”
The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, citing an unnamed NSA source and documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reported that Obama did not stop the bugging after the NSA told him of it, and wanted to know as much as possible about Merkel since he “did not trust her.”
German diplomats are a planning a visit to the White House soon to discuss the matter.