NEW: Der Spiegel: U.S. spied on Merkel for more than 10 years, at least until June
NEW: NSC doesn't comment on claim, says U.S gets intelligence like other nations
German intelligence officials will visit Washington, Foreign Ministry spokesman says
A European summit was dominated by anger over claims of widespread U.S. spying
Germany is sending senior intelligence officials to Washington, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Saturday, amid outrage over claims the U.S. National Security Agency monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
Among them will be the heads of Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence services and the coordinator of the federal intelligence services, the government’s press office said.
The trip comes amid a series of reports that have challenged relations between the two long-time allies. The latest is a story in the German magazine Der Spiegel that – citing a secret U.S. intelligence file – claimed Merkel’s phone had been monitored for more than 10 years, stretching back before her current post.
The same database indicated the United States was spying on many others in Berlin’s political district, at least up to when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Berlin this year, Der Spiegel reported.
Asked about these claims, U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said her agency does not “comment publicly on every specific intelligence activity.”
“And, as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” said Hayden, echoing comments she and others have made in recent days.
Still, it remains to be seen if citizens and leaders in Europe will accept such explanations – and whether recent efforts by the Obama administration to address their concerns will be successful.
Spokesman: U.S.-German talks ongoing for months
The German government’s deputy spokesman said Friday that its officials heading to Washington would seek to push forward talks with the White House and the NSA as they seek more information about the alleged U.S. spying.
The German representatives will be in the U.S. capital “very soon,” said the foreign ministry spokesman, who is not named in line with department policy.
The spokesman said it is most likely that the intelligence officials will meet with their respective counterparts, although he did not know exactly who they would see.
The United States has been in talks with German intelligence officials for the past several months, and leaders of both countries have agreed to increase cooperation, said Hayden of the National Security Council.
“We understand that German officials plan to travel to Washington in coming weeks, and the U.S. government looks forward to meeting with them,” she said.
Germany and Brazil are also drafting a U.N. resolution regarding the protection of privacy in electronic communication, according to the German foreign ministry spokesman said. Diplomats from those two countries met Thursday to discuss the possible U.N. resolution, government officials in Brazil said.
“It is very general, but we think this is a very important topic, that’s why we are drafting it. It is still at a very early stage, so we don’t know when it will be presented or if other countries will join,” the German spokesman said.
U.S. relations have soured with Brazil over reports that the United States spied on President Dilma Rousseff and her advisers.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reportedly leaked the documents cited in Brazilian media reports about the alleged espionage operations, as well as those in European media outlets.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki referred to the leaks from Snowden in comments Friday in Washington.
“These unauthorized disclosures of classified information have of course led to criticisms of our intelligence activity by many of our friends and partners,” she said. “It’s created significant challenges in our relationships with some of our partners and has been, of course, a public distraction.”
Obama has directed the government to review its surveillance capabilities, including with regard to its foreign partners, she said.
“We want to ensure we’re collecting information because we need it and not just because we can,” she said.
“We will of course continue to gather the information we need to keep ourselves and our allies safe. We of course will factor in the views of our friends and partners as we have those discussions with them, and we’ll continue to balance our security needs with privacy concerns.”
The U.S government fully expects that “more allegations will surface given the quantity of classified information leaked by Mr. Snowden,” Psaki added.
‘Deep concerns’ in Europe
Anger over the claims of widespread spying by the NSA on its European allies overshadowed an EU summit held in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
EU leaders said the allegations had raised “deep concerns” among Europeans and could affect the cooperation needed for effective intelligence gathering.
“A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field,” the leaders said in a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the European Council meeting.
Germany and France intend to seek talks with the United States “with the aim of finding before the end of the year an understanding on mutual relations in that field,” the EU leaders’ statement said. Other nations are welcome to join these talks, it noted.
Merkel said the assertions that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on her and other world leaders had “severely shaken” relationships between Europe and the United States, and that trust would have to be rebuilt.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Friday that Madrid had summoned U.S. Ambassador James Costos over the matter, a day after Germany summoned the U.S. envoy to Berlin over its concerns.
The German spying allegation came in the same week that the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported claims that the NSA intercepted more than 70 million phone calls in France over a 30-day period.
French President Francois Hollande said Friday there is an “ongoing dialog” with the United States over its past actions, but the priority is establishing a “code of conduct” for the present and future.
CNN’s Chloe Sommers and Frederik Pleitgen contributed to this report.