BERLIN – Germany and the United States are to strike a two-way deal not to spy on each other in the wake of the diplomatic furore sparked by the Edward Snowden revelations, a German newspaper reported.
A delegation of German chancellery and intelligence officials reached the deal during talks at the White House this week, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) reported in its Sunday edition.
The accord is set to be concluded early next year, it said, citing sources close to the German government.
Contacted by AFP, a government spokeswoman declined to comment.
Separately, German weekly Der Spiegel also reported that a deal between the two sides was being discussed.
In a report to be published Sunday, the weekly said Germany and the United States have agreed to not carry out industrial espionage on each other.
Der Spiegel also said that Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, had acknowledged the tapping of Merkel’s mobile phone in the past.
During a meeting with Democrat senator Dianne Feinstein, Alexander had been asked if Washington was listening in to Merkel’s calls. In reply, he had said that was no longer the case, Der Spiegel said, citing unnamed participants at the meeting.
Spy claims have been ricocheting across the Atlantic in a row that has frazzled ties between US and European allies.
Top German envoys were in Washington on Wednesday to rebuild a “basis of trust” after alleged US tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone in sweeping surveillance operations that have outraged Europe.
Merkel’s spokesman said the talks were aimed at clarifying the allegations and working out “a new basis of trust and new regulation for our cooperation in this area”.
The chancellor’s foreign policy advisor Christoph Heusgen and intelligence coordinator Guenter Heiss met top US officials including National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and counter-terrorism advisor Lisa Monaco.
According to the FAS report, the head of Germany’s secret service is now to hold a top-level meeting with US intelligence chiefs on Monday in Washington.
The government spokeswoman did not confirm plans for the meeting.
France, Italy and Spain have also protested after media reports, based on leaks from US fugitive Edward Snowden, that Washington collected tens of millions of European telephone calls and online communications as part of anti-terror operations.
But the documents leaked by Snowden also show that spy agencies in Germany, France, Spain and Sweden are carrying out mass surveillance of online and phone traffic in collaboration with Britain, the Guardian newspaper reported Saturday.
Britain’s GCHQ electronic eavesdropping centre — which has a close relationship with the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) — has taken a leading role in helping the other countries work around laws intended to limit spying, the British newspaper said.
The report is likely to prove embarrassing for governments including those of Germany and Spain, given their protests over claims of US spying.
The Guardian’s report said the intelligence services of the European countries, in a “loose but growing” alliance, carried out surveillance through directly tapping fibre-optic cables and through secret relationships with communications companies.