Germany’s intelligence agency intercepted phone calls of US officials, German newspaper Der Spiegel has revealed but maintained it was all done by accident.
In 2013, the country’s foreign intelligence agency BND listened to a phone call made by US Secretary of State John Kerry. In an earlier incident, the agency intercepted a phone call between Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Both calls were intercepted as part of BND’s operations monitoring telecommunications in the Middle East, without the intention to eavesdrop on the US representatives. Clinton’s call had reportedly been intercepted on the same frequency as used by a terror suspect, Der Spiegel said, not giving out the source of its information.
Although the newspaper maintains the recordings were immediately destroyed, the revelation may cause considerable embarrassment to Germany, one of the most vocal critics of US spying practices exposed last year by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Snowden’s documents reported on in German media prompted strong criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was allegedly among the US intelligence agency's targets.
A spokesman for the US embassy in Berlin and the State Department in Washington declined to comment on the latest reports.
In its report on Saturday, Der Spiegel also cited a confidential 2009 BND document listing fellow Nato member Turkey as a target for German intelligence gathering.
The Germany intelligence agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.