BERLIN — Germany's foreign minister said Friday that new allegations of U.S. eavesdropping on senior German government officials' telephones need to be clarified "as quickly as possible" and that he hoped Washington would be forthcoming with information.
Reports two years ago that Angela Merkel's cellphone was monitored by the U.S. National Security Agency caused friction between Berlin and Washington, and the latest diplomatic affront came Wednesday when WikiLeaks published a list of German phone numbers it said showed the agency eavesdropped on senior German officials beyond the chancellor.
In the wake of the report, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was important for Germany to continue to work closely with the United States on many international issues including negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, but that he hoped for a quick explanation from Washington.
"I hope the Americans will be helpful in this clarification," he told reporters. "Whether that is the case, we'll see in the coming days."
The 2013 report that the NSA had snooped on Merkel's cellphone prompted President Barack Obama to pledge he wouldn't allow America's massive communications surveillance capability to damage relations with close allies.
The latest list, which was partially redacted, reportedly contained phone and fax numbers used by the German economy and finance ministries, among others.
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday that the government was examining the information in the reports and assessing the security of its communications.
Asked about his use of the word "spying attack," Seibert said the term was accurate for the situation described in the press reports.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate noted that the high-security cellphones used by the government have never been recommended for any communication above the lowest level of secrecy. There are three secrecy levels above it.
In another development, German weekly Der Spiegel, which has been at the forefront of revelations about U.S. spying in Germany, said it has filed a criminal complaint alleging that it was the victim of spying.
The magazine said the criminal complaint, filed with the Federal Prosecutors Office, is based on a classified German government document it obtained, which it claims shows that the CIA was monitoring its communication with senior officials.
It said the complaint is initially directed against "unknown persons" but that it hopes to compel the government to provide further information that would identify those it claims broke German laws on espionage and communications privacy.
Frank Jordans contributed to this report