Merkel, Obama to discuss NSA surveillance program
Berlin: Germany`s Chancellor will raise the issue of NSA`s eavesdropping on European communications when she meets President Barack Obama here next week, the latest sign of the international backlash over leaks about America`s sweeping electronic surveillance programs.
Obama has defended the once-secret programs that sweep up to an estimated 3 billion phone calls a day and amass Internet data from US providers, saying they are a necessary defence against terrorism. He assured Americans on Friday that "nobody is listening to your telephone calls."
That has given little assurance to Germans and other foreigners, who routinely use US-based Internet sites for voice and data communications. European nations often have much stricter privacy laws than those the US, and their citizens defend those privacy rights with much more vigour.
In Brussels, senior European Union officials said they would also question their American counterparts about the impact of such programs on the privacy of EU citizens during a trans-Atlantic ministerial meeting in Dublin starting Thursday.
German government Spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday that Chancellor Angela Merkel would question Obama about the NSA program when he`s in Berlin on June 18 for his first visit to the German capital as US President. The issue could tarnish a visit that both sides hoped would reaffirm strong German-American ties.
Germany`s Interior Ministry said it had already been in contact with US officials to determine whether there had been any infringement of German citizens` privacy, considered almost-sacred rights in a country with a history of deep Nazi and East German infringements on privacy.
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague sought to assure Parliament that allegations that the British government had used information provided by the Americans to circumvent British laws were "baseless."
"Our agencies practice and uphold UK law at all times," he said, "even when dealing with information from outside the UK."
NSA`s capability to monitor a vast array of international communications is a product of the Cold War, when the agency used monitoring sites in Germany, Britain and other countries to spy on communications within the Soviet Union and its East European allies.
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