According to leaked documents seen by the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, US intelligence intercepted the German chancellor’s phone from 2002, before she became chancellor, until shortly before a visit by President Barack Obama to Berlin this past June.The documents also reveal that the surveillance was carried out by one of a network of secret US mobile phone listening stations that extends around the world, with manned posts – often in diplomatic missions – in European cities including Berlin, Frankfurt, Rome, Milan, Paris, Geneva and Madrid. […]While Der Spiegel said it was not clear whether Mr Obama knew of the spying operation against Ms Merkel, the Sunday edition of Bild said the US president had been informed of the surveillance in 2010 by the NSA director Keith Alexander.
The White House has been relatively quiet on this, reiterating its initial claim “that the US was not, and would not in the future, monitor Ms Merkel’s personal phone.”Whatever the specific outlines of the story turn out to be, and however much the President did or did not know, this is not the way to treat a German Chancellor. The klutzy handling of the successive revelations is making the White House look both untrustworthy and incompetent.At a time when many Europeans doubt the quality of President Obama’s foreign policy leadership, his personal popularity remains the greatest single asset he brings to the American presence in Europe. The White House needs to get on top of this story, fast, or watch that popularity shrink—along with America’s standing with its most important European ally.