5 June 2014, NYT: Germany Begins Inquiry of U.S. in Surveillance Case
27 October 2013, Spiegel: Embassy Espionage: The NSA's Secret Spy Hub in Berlin
JUNE 12, 2015
Germany Drops Inquiry Into Claims U.S. Tapped Angela Merkel's Phone
By MELISSA EDDY
BERLIN -- Germany's federal prosecutor said on Friday that he had dropped a formal investigation into allegations of eavesdropping on one of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphones by an American intelligence agency because of a lack of concrete evidence.
A German news report in October 2013 that the National Security Agency had tapped one of Ms. Merkel's private cellphones prompted outrage among citizens already angry over previous reports of the widespread gathering of telecommunications data by United States and British intelligence services.
After coming under pressure from Parliament and the news media, the federal prosecutor, Harald Range, opened a formal investigation  last June into the allegations. The inquiry was largely based on a document uncovered by the news weekly Der Spiegel that suggested  the United States had been listening in on the chancellor's communications, possibly since 2002.
But Mr. Range said in a statement on Friday that investigators had not been able to prove that the document was "an authentic eavesdropping order from the N.S.A., or another U.S. intelligence agency," or that it concretely showed the chancellor's phone had been tapped.
"It was possible to determine that the telephone number listed is assigned to a mobile telephone used by the chancellor," Mr. Range said. "The data on the document otherwise remain open to various interpretations."
The allegations of eavesdropping by the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies have remained a source of conflict in trans-Atlantic relations, despite assurances from the White House that Ms. Merkel was not being spied on at the time of the report and would not be the subject of surveillance in the future -- a response that pointedly omitted anything about the past.
"The vague remarks from U.S. officials about U.S. intelligence surveillance of the chancellor's cellphone -- i.e. 'not any more' -- are insufficient evidence," the prosecutor said, noting they were taken by the public as a general admission of guilt by Washington.
Attempts to obtain original documents or further details from the United States were not successful, he said, leaving German investigators to rely largely on testimony from their own intelligence services.
"Clarification of the suspected crime, time it took place, location and circumstances, as well as the people involved -- all required in a code of criminal procedure -- were not obtainable in this fashion," the prosecutor said.
A special investigative committee of the German Parliament has been looking into the extent of the spying, which has widened to include allegations that the country's own foreign intelligence service cooperated with allies and accusations of economic espionage by the Americans against leading German and European companies.
Mr. Range further stated that documents released by Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor who unveiled the scope of the agency's international data collection efforts, "do not contain any concrete evidence of surveillance of the mobile telephone used by the chancellor."
Although Ms. Merkel's name appears to have been searched more than 300 times through a program called Nymrod, there was no evidence that the data gathered had come from one of her phones, Mr. Range said.
Investigators are continuing to examine whether American and British intelligence agencies eavesdropped on the telecommunications data of German citizens, the prosecutor said.
The chancellor did not raise the topic during President Obama's visit to Germany for the Group of 7 summit meeting this week,  and on Tuesday, she urged German companies to move beyond their fear of big data.
"Whoever sees data as a threat, whoever thinks about every piece of data in terms of what bad can be done with it, will not be able to take advantage of the opportunity of digitization," Ms. Merkel told a gathering of midsize and family-owned companies.