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Obama, Merkel disagree on spying issues

By CNN Staff
updated 5:15 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Just because we can spy doesn't mean we should, Chancellor Merkel says
  • Edward Snowden leaks are part of U.S.-German discussions in Washington
  • President Obama laments strained relations with Germany over U.S. surveillance
  • Merkel says more talks are needed to find a balance between security and privacy

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged Friday that differences remain between their governments on surveillance programs in the aftermath of disclosures by classified leaker Edward Snowden.

Obama told reporters at a joint news conference at the White House that "we're not perfectly aligned," noting the United States has no "blanket no-spy agreement" with any country, including close allies.

Merkel later told business leaders that a balance must be struck between technical capability, security needs and privacy.

"In a nutshell, an end never justifies the means and not everything that's technically feasible ought to be done," she said.

Germany and other friendly countries complained when Snowden's disclosures last year revealed U.S. surveillance of foreign leaders as well as screening of foreign phone calls and Internet contacts in investigating terrorist ties.

The Obama administration responded that all countries conduct surveillance on each other, but the President also has ordered changes in U.S. programs.

Obama said Friday that "it has pained me to see the degree to which" the Snowden disclosures have strained the relationship with Germany, a key ally.

The issue ignited public anger in Europe, including Germany, and Merkel said talks with U.S. officials so far failed to bring agreement.

"Over the past few months, we've seen considerable differences of opinion and of interest between Germany and the United States over this issue, and I do think that we will not have fully overcome this, even after my visit," she said.

CNN'sTom Cohen and Laura Koran contributed to this report.

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