Germany’s top federal prosecutor is launching an investigation into the National Security Agency’s snooping on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
Chief prosecutor Harald Range’s office said on Wednesday that it has found “sufficient factual evidence” to support the notion “that unknown members of U.S. intelligence services have spied on a mobile phone” of Merkel's.
The probe might not lead to a prosecution or a trial, but it nonetheless signals an ongoing rift between the U.S. and Germany on the issue and could make future collaboration on intelligence operations and other efforts more difficult.
In response to the news, the White House said that issues about U.S. spying should be dealt with between the two nations.
“We believe the best way to address the concerns that Germany has had about NSA’s activities is through a direct dialogue with us,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
“We’ve been able to have a dialogue at the level of heads of states but also intelligence channels as well to provide information and exchange information about our intelligence activities,” he added. “That’s the best way for us to build trust.”
Reports about the NSA’s snooping on Merkel’s phone erupted in October and led to a diplomatic headache for the Obama administration.
German leaders and the public swiftly denounced the snooping.
“Spying among friends is never acceptable,” Merkel said at the time.
Lawmakers in Germany's parliament have explored the issue, and Merkel has announced plans to work with French President François Hollande to build Internet infrastructure that avoids the U.S., in order to keep citizens’ data out of the NSA's grasp.
President Obama has since pledged to reform the country’s spying on foreigners, including the promise not to spy on leaders of “close friends and allies.”
Still, the issue is ruffling feathers in Germany,
When she visited Washington last month for the first time since the NSA revelations emerged, Merkel said there were still “a few difficulties yet to overcome” on the spying.