by Philip Oltermann in Berlin: Germany summons US ambassador over claim NSA bugged Merkel's phone:
Allegations that US spying has reached highest level of government met with outrage and disappointment in Germany. Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, has called the US ambassador to a personal meeting to discuss allegations that US secret services bugged Angela Merkel's mobile phone. The decision to call in John B Emerson, who has only been the US representative in Berlin since mid-August, is an unusually drastic measure. During previous upheavals in relations, such as over the Syrian crisis, conversations have taken place betweeb diplomats. Allegations that the US government's spying had reached the highest level were met with outrage and disappointment in Germany on Thursday. The country's defence minister. Thomas de Maiziere, told ARD television it would be bad if the reports turned out to be true. Washington and Berlin could not return to business as usual, he said. Informed sources in Germany said Merkel was livid about the reports that the NSA had bugged her phone and was convinced, on the basis of German intelligence investigation, that the reports were utterly substantiated. The German news weekly, Der Spiegel, reported an investigation by German intelligence, prompted by research from the magazine, that produced plausible information that the chancellor's mobile was targeted by the US eavesdropping agency. She found the evidence substantial enough to call the White House and demand clarification. The outrage in Berlin came days after the French president, Francois Hollande, called the White House to confront Barack Obama with reports that the NSA was targeting the private phone calls and text messages of millions of French people. While European leaders have generally been keen to play down the impact of whistle-blowing disclosures in recent months, events in the EU's two biggest countries this week threatened an increasing lack of trust in transatlantic relations. On Wednesday Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, made plain that the chancellor upbraided Obama unusually sharply and also voiced exasperation at the slowness of the Americans to respond to detailed questions about the NSA scandal since the Snowden revelations first appeared in the Guardian in June. Merkel told Obama that "she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices. if the indications are authenticated", Seifert said. "This would be a serious breach of confidence. Such practices have to be halted immediately."The sharpness of the German complaint direct to a US president strongly suggested that Berlin had no doubt about the grounds for protest. Seibert voiced irritation that Berlin had waited for months for proper answers from Washington on the NSA operations. On Thursday Sueddeutsche Zeitung conveyed a strong sense of the depth of disillusionment with the US president in Germany when it wrote that Barack Obama is not a Nobel peace prize winner, he is a troublemaker". In a comment piece in the German broadsheet, Robert Rossman wrote that during his last visit to Germany, "the American president had flamoyantly promised more trusting collaboration between the two countries. Even Merkel seems to have lost faith in the promise by now.