NSA, CIA spy on German officials from US embassy -- report

That's the claim from German news outlet Spiegel, which paints the US embassy as a "nest of espionage."

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
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The National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency have teamed up to spy on German government officials' phone calls, a new report out of Germany claims.

Spiegel, a German news outlet, reported on Sunday that the US is using its embassy in Berlin as a "nest of espionage," where the country's two biggest spy agencies listen in on cell phone communications around government buildings in Germany, including those made by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

US-German relations have been a bit strained since reports surfaced saying the US has been monitoring the chancellor's communications. Merkel called President Obama last week for an explanation.

"The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel," the White House said in response.

The NSA and its alleged spying tactics have become a source of much debate over the last year, since NSA leaker Edward Snowden made accusations on what the government agency was doing. While Merkel seems to appreciate that government agencies around the world spy on possible threats, she said at a European Union summit last week in Brussels that "spying between friends, that's just not done."

According to Spiegel, which investigated Snowden's leaks and interviewed several intelligence sources, the NSA and CIA, which have not admitted to spying on German officials, have teamed up on a "Special Collection Service" that operates in Berlin. The SCS has 80 locations worldwide, according to Spiegel, including 19 in Europe. The SCS agents are described as diplomats, giving them special privileges in the countries they operate, but are actually trading in espionage, Spiegel says.

The exact timeline on the alleged spying is a bit murky, but Spiegel's research claims the SCS started listening in on German communications under President George W. Bush. The effort has been subsequently approved by the Obama Administration, the German paper says.

It's believed, however, that Germany is just one of many targets for the NSA and CIA. El Mundo, a paper in Spain, reported on Sunday, according to Atlantic Wire, that the NSA collected data on 60 million Spain-based phone calls in a 30-day period. That claim came from documents leaked by Snowden.