When Edward Snowden released documents to the Guardian and Washington Post earlier this year, it detailed the extent of the National Security Agency's (NSA) spying tactics in the United States. Participation from major technology hubs like Google and Microsoft alarmed the nation about their own data security.
Even though spying is a common practice for intelligence officials, another batch of files have shown that the NSA was even spying on American allies like France, Mexico and Germany. In fact, data from German chancellor Angela Merkel's personal cell phone has been collected since 2002, Der Spiegel reported.
Merkel, who is known to be an avid texter, immediately asked U.S. President Barack Obama if he was aware of this, and he said he was not. However, another leaked file said otherwise, stating that Obama was briefed about the operation in 2010 by NSA director Keith Alexander.
Nonetheless, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told Reuters that Obama was not informed about the Merkel operation. Expect this to be an ongoing investigation between both nations.
"News reports claiming otherwise are not true," Vines said.
However, the unit dedicated to international spying, also known as the Special Collection Service has locations in 80 cities—Berlin's SCS office for example, was inside the U.S. Embassy building, this type of surveillance on international waters could cause criminal consequences, according to the BBC. Within the European continent, there are 19 SCS branches, two of them are located in Germany.
Merkel's next steps
In response to spying in Germany and France, two of America's allies, President François Hollande of France and Merkel called their ambassadors to get to the bottom of this intelligence sharing system, Tim Naftali of the New America Foundation told NPR.
"I think it's enough of a game changer," Naftali said. "In foreign spying there's a question of – it's not right or wrong, it's a matter of prudent or reckless."