Leaders of the European Union’s 28 nations will meet in Brussels on Thursday as controversy swirls over allegations the U.S. National Security Agency monitored the cell phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Early on Thursday, the German foreign minister summoned the U.S. ambassador to discuss the matter. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is expected to meet with U.S. envoy John Emerson later in the day.
During a telephone call Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama told Chancellor Merkel the United States is not currently monitoring, and will not monitor in the future, her communications.
A White House statement said both leaders agreed to intensify their intelligence cooperation to protect the security of both countries and their allies and the privacy of their citizens.
A statement from Merkel’s spokesman said she made clear to Obama that “she views such practices… as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally.”
The Obama administration has been denying news reports about many U.S. intelligence activities as it faces a firestorm of criticism over new revelations that it has spied on its allies. Those reports stem from secret documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia.
President Obama has ordered a review of the way U.S. intelligence is gathered in an effort White House officials say is intended to ensure a proper balance of security concerns and privacy concerns.
Merkel had raised concerns about the electronic eavesdropping issue when Obama visited Germany in June, and has demanded answers from the U.S. government and backed calls for greater European data protection.
French President Francois Hollande has been pressing for the U.S. spying issue to be put on the agenda of the long-planned European leaders summit that starts Thursday.
U.S. intelligence director James Clapper issued a statement Tuesday saying the intelligence gathered by the United States is the type “gathered by all nations” as part of their efforts to combat terrorism and other threats.
(Photo: Sébastien Bertrand)