The WikiLeaks report, released on Wednesday, suggests NSA spying on German officials went on far longer and more widely than previously thought. The website published a new list of German phone numbers it claims showed the NSA targeted the officials for surveillance.
The list of 56 partially redacted phone numbers includes those belonging to staff of the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as well as his predecessor, Helmut Kohl. Also on the list were numbers attributed to former diplomat Geza Andreas von Geyr, who now works for the Ministry of Defense, and Ronald Pofalla, who was the former head of Angela Merkel's chancellery between 2009 and 2013.
WikiLeaks also gave a cell phone number it claimed was used by the German leader up until 2013.
The website published what it said were three intercepts by the US National Security Agency (NSA) of conversations involving Merkel. These included discussions such as "Chancellor Merkel's plans on how to respond to the international financial crisis and the eurozone bank bailout." An intercept from 2009 details Merkel's criticism that the US Federal Reserve was "taking risks" concerning the previous year's global financial crisis.
Also disclosed were Merkel's private opinions on US President Barack Obama's involvement with Iran, from conversations she had with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
'Explicitly targeted for long-term surveillance'
These latest disclosures come barely a week after WikiLeaks posted documents from the 1990s revealing contact details of various officials in Germany's Finance Ministry, as well as staff in the Ministry of Agriculture, European policy advisers and an official working in the European Central Bank. The leaks display a special interest in Merkel's handling of the financial crisis in Greece, and her thoughts on the heads of key financial institutions.
The secret-spilling site says both sets of reports illustrate that "the NSA explicitly targeted, for long-term surveillance, 125 phone numbers for top German officials, and did so for political and economic reasons." It claimed the lists were updated for more than a decade after 2002, and a "close study" of it reveals it evolved from a previous list in the 1990s.
By publishing these communications, WikiLeaks is threatening the already fragile relationship between Germany and the United States, still struggling to recover from reports two years ago that Chancellor Merkel's own cell phone was tapped. It also led to allegations the German government turned a blind eye to, and even helped, the NSA spy on European businesses and officials.
Last week the chancellery called in the US ambassador to Germany to ask for an explanation on the WikiLeaks disclosures.
an/jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)