July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s top security official said U.S. authorities pledged to offer more information on mass surveillance as the government in Berlin came under increasing pressure over trans-Atlantic spying.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who was pilloried by the opposition over the weekend for defending U.S. spying practices after a visit to Washington, is due to appear today in front of the lower house panel charged with overseeing intelligence to brief lawmakers on his visit.
“We need explanations and more information about what really happened,” Friedrich said in an interview with broadcaster N-TV before attending the Parliamentary Control Panel. “The Americans have promised us that.”
Merkel, seeking a third term as chancellor in federal elections on Sept. 22, pushed back against the opposition criticism this week by demanding that U.S. personnel adhere to German data-protection law when operating on German soil and pressing for technology companies to disclose with whom they share data.
German officials have bridled at revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency’s newly disclosed Prism program as a violation of data protection. Merkel’s top spokesman said July 1 that “we aren’t in the Cold War anymore,” following allegations that the NSA had spied on European Union diplomats.
Merkel’s Social Democratic election challenger, Peer Steinbrueck, said that Friedrich’s U.S. trip was a “complete insult” and suggested Merkel had violated her oath of office by not protecting Germans’ privacy.
In an interview with broadcaster ARD two days ago, the chancellor was asked about allegations that U.S. surveillance reached into the top echelons of the German government.
“I’m not aware of having been listened in on,” Merkel said.
The German government will now push for a unified European Union data-protection requiring companies such as Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. to disclose to whom they transfer data. Merkel also joined members of her Cabinet who have urged an international treaty to guarantee privacy protection.
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