Germany Calls In U.K. Ambassador Over Embassy Spying AllegationsPatrick Donahue
German diplomats called in the British ambassador in Berlin after a report in the London-based Independent newspaper that the U.K diplomatic mission in the city may have tapped German government communications.
Ambassador Simon McDonald was asked to go the Foreign Ministry today for talks at the behest of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the government said. Citing documents obtained by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the Independent said Government Communications Headquarters, one of the U.K.’s three spy agencies, was eavesdropping on intelligence from a listening post at the embassy.
Germany’s top European-affairs diplomat “made clear that listening to communications from the premises of a diplomatic mission would be considered an activity in violation of international law,” the ministry said in an e-mailed statement.
The Anglo-German spat comes after a fallout between Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama following revelations that American intelligence may have tapped Merkel’s mobile phone. Merkel phoned Obama to complain and Germany summoned the U.S. ambassador on Oct. 24 following the reports.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Merkel didn’t speak today and have no plans to do so, Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, said in London. The government won’t comment on intelligence questions, the spokesman told reporters.
“We have an excellent relationship with the German government and I believe that will continue,” Gray said. Calls seeking comment at the British Embassy were unanswered.
The Independent report cited an NSA document detailing cooperation between the U.S. agency and Britain’s GCHQ in overseeing a network of electronic spy posts installed in diplomatic missions around the world. A listening post is hidden in a white tent-like structure on top of the Berlin embassy and few personnel know about the operation, the Independent said.
The report mirrored an Oct. 28 report in Der Spiegel magazine, which cited NSA documents showing that a “Special Collection Service” eavesdropped on communications from the roof of the U.S. embassy, next to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
The British embassy is located in the same block of buildings, around the corner from the U.S. mission in central Berlin.