Below is from FNC’s James Rosen
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is due at this hour – between 3 to 4 pm German time, I am told – to meet with U.S. ambassador John Emerson. A statement will be issued by the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin afterwards, which I expect to receive. In advance, however, I am told Emerson will be informed of Germany’s displeasure “in no uncertain terms.”
German officials emphasized how unusual this is, saying they would have to check the archive to recall the last time – if ever – that the U.S. was subjected to such treatment by the German government. In any previous cases of displeasure with Washington, the session would have been handled at a lower level than the German foreign minister. One official told me this kind of treatment usually reserved for Syria and Iran.
Making the session still more unusual is the fact that Germany is still in the process of forming a new government, following Chancellor Merkel’s victory in last month’s elections. As Westerwelle will not be foreign minister in the new government, ordinary protocol would hold that he not undertake any exceptionally significant actions in this transitional period, so as not to bind his successor. Officials said Westerwelle’s handling of the situation in this way signifies the approval for it of Merkel herself.
German officials are not saying, if they even know, how long the surveillance on Merkel’s phone went on for – but they did indicate that they know more about it than what they read in the open press. I was told that once the Snowden revelations started to emerge, in June, the German government “started security inquiries” which confirmed the spying on the chancellor’s personal cell phone. The German government “would not have come out with the statements it has if there were not a basis for it,” one German official told me, adding that the episode has led to “a serious breach of trust” because the monitoring of a foreign head of state poses grave issues of violation of sovereignty, an intrusion into “the most inner sanctum of governance.”
The officials noted the statement in yesterday’s briefing by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney that “the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the Chancellor,” identifying, as any sane listener would, the fact that Carney did not address past behavior.
The German officials I spoke with declined to acknowledge whether they even know whether President Obama approved of the NSA surveillance on Merkel, but did say: “Both possibilities are equally unpleasant.” If Obama knew and permitted the surveillance to continue, the officials said, this would raise major issues of trust and, too, questions about the legal basis for past and future counterterrorism cooperation. If the president did not know about the eavesdropping on a major European ally, then it points to “a security system that is out of control.”
They also pointed out that given the way NSA operates, it is likely that President Obama himself was overheard by U.S. intelligence officers, as the president likely spoke to Merkel on her cell phone during the period of surveillance, and the Germans consider it doubtful that NSA officials would have halted the surveillance on Merkel on those occasions where Obama was her interlocutor on the phone.
Lastly, the Germans consider this not just a problem for bilateral relations but also “an internal U.S. problem.”
Chief Washington Correspondent
Host, “The Foxhole”