U.S., Germany reportedly reach agreement not to snoop on each other

AFP-JIJI

Germany and the United States are to strike a two-way deal not to spy on each other in the wake of the diplomatic furore sparked by National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations, a German newspaper reported.

A delegation of German chancellery and intelligence officials reached the deal during talks at the White House last week, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) reported in its Sunday edition.

The accord is set to be concluded early next year, it said, citing sources close to the German government.

A government spokeswoman declined to comment.

Separately, German weekly Der Spiegel also reported that a deal between the two sides was being discussed.

In a report that was to be published Sunday, the weekly said Germany and the United States have agreed to not carry out industrial espionage on each other.

Der Spiegel also said that NSA Director Keith Alexander acknowledged the tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone in the past.

During a meeting with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Alexander was asked if Washington was listening in on Merkel’s calls. In reply, he had said that is no longer the case, Der Spiegel said, citing unnamed participants at the meeting.

Spy claims have been ricocheting across the Atlantic in a row that has frazzled ties between the U.S. and its European allies.

Top German envoys were in Washington on Wednesday to rebuild a “basis of trust” after alleged U.S. tapping of Merkel’s phone in sweeping surveillance operations that have outraged Europe.

Merkel’s spokesman said the talks were aimed at clarifying the allegations and working out “a new basis of trust and new regulation for our cooperation in this area.”

The chancellor’s foreign policy adviser, Christoph Heusgen, and intelligence coordinator Guenter Heiss met top U.S. officials including National Security Adviser Susan Rice, James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco.

According to the FAS report, the head of Germany’s Secret Service will hold a top-level meeting with U.S. intelligence chiefs in Washington on Monday.

The government spokeswoman did not confirm plans for the meeting.

France, Italy and Spain have also protested after media reports, based on leaks from U.S. fugitive Snowden, that Washington collected tens of millions of European telephone calls and online communications as part of antiterrorism operations.

But the documents leaked by Snowden also showed that spy agencies in Germany, France, Spain and Sweden are carrying out mass surveillance of online and phone traffic in collaboration with Britain, The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday.

Britain’s GCHQ electronic eavesdropping center — which has a close relationship with the NSA — has taken a leading role in helping the other countries work around laws intended to limit spying, the British newspaper said.

The report is likely to prove embarrassing for governments, including those of Germany and Spain, given their protests over claims of U.S. spying.

The Guardian’s report said the intelligence services of the European countries, in a “loose but growing” alliance, carried out surveillance through directly tapping fiber-optic cables and through secret relationships with communications companies.