BERLIN — Germany's Angela Merkel became Chancellor in 2005. But the American National Security Agency started spying on her three years earlier.
That's the latest revelation from the German magazine Der Spiegel, which has been revealing the depths of U.S. spying on Germany (as well as some other nations) through documents from former NSA worker Edward Snowden. There are conflicting reports about the source of the information for this revelation, with some members of the German parliament saying that government sources have suggested this information might not involve Snowden's documents.
The spy issue exploded this week here, when Merkel called U.S. President Barack Obama to ask for an explanation of reports that her cell phone - a vital part of her political persona - was being tapped.
Spying in Germany is particularly abhorrent, as within the last 70 years the nation has suffered under two autocratic governments that used internal spy organizations to terrorize citizens (the Nazi Gestapo and the East German Stasi).
The new revelations paint a picture of an American spy program peeking into almost every corner of German government. The allegations gleaned from the secret documents note that the American spy operation was probably run out of the American embassy, which now occupies one of the most desirable and pricey pieces of real estate in the German capital.
The embassy is only blocks from a number of government ministries, the Bundestag (Germany's parliament) and the chancellor's office, and apparently the United States was spying on everything they could listen in on for the past decade.
The Spiegel pieces notes that U.S. spy program went into high gear the year after 9/11, and is shown to have continued until at least a few weeks before President Barack Obama arrived in Berlin this summer to meet with Merkel.
Spiegel though uses the Snowden documents as a primary source for its reporting, and Snowden's leaked his documents weeks before Obama arrived in Berlin. It is highly unlikely Snowden had access to NSA documents after news of the initial information he handed out surfaced.
In reports of conversations between the governments, the use of Merkel as an intelligence asset has not been denied. U.S. officials have been unwilling to say that Merkel was not spied upon, only going so far as to note that going forward the Chancellor will be off limits.