Britain’s ambassador in Berlin has had to answer uncomfortable questions from Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle over media reports that Britain eavesdropped on German officials from a rooftop not far from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle demanded an explanation from Britain’s ambassador in Berlin on Wednesday over media reports of widespread spying from the UK’s diplomatic mission.
The “invitation” to answer questions – which is a step below a stern summoning – came after a report in the London-based Independent newspaper on Tuesday that Britain likely helped US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on German officials from a station on the UK’s diplomatic mission rooftop, not far from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.
The Independent suggested that the spying outpost, a secret to all but a small, highly selective group within the diplomatic mission, continued to eavesdrop even as the US folded its own operations.
“The structure bears a striking resemblance to spying equipment used in GCHQ’s (Government Communications Headquarters) Cold War listening post… used to intercept East German and Soviet communications,” the British daily wrote.
“Equipment within the embassy unit would be capable of intercepting mobile phone calls, wi-fi data and long-distance communications across the German capital, including the adjacent government buildings,” it added.
Last week an “irate” Merkel called President Barack Obama for an explanation over allegations that that the United States tapped her private mobile phone and had been recording her communications for years.
In the wake of the diplomatic row the United States has sought to appease German officials, who were dispatched to Washington to probe the extent of US spying in Germany and to forge a “no spy” deal between the two allied nations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted last week that in certain cases the US' vast surveillance programme may have gone "too far".
Reacting to the reports, German officials said that an agreement to refrain from mutual spying would also need to be struck between Berlin and London, with regular checks to verify that neither side was cheating.
The latest revelations are further fallout from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-11-05