WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel downplayed reports that U.S. intelligence services tapped her mobile phone, with both leaders saying they have begun a “cyber dialogue” to set mutual privacy standards.
Speaking at a White House press conference in the first meeting between the two allied leaders since the mobile surveillance reports, Obama and Merkel both stated that surveillance standards are “not perfectly aligned yet,” and legal frameworks need to catch up to rapidly advancing technology.
Obama stated that the U.S. is looking to expand privacy standards for “non-U.S. persons” and seeking ways to “constrain” the use of bulk data collection by “adjusting the legal framework” between the two allied nations. Obama also said reports that the U.S. offered, but then withdrew, a no-spy agreement are “not quite accurate.”
Obama said that it has “pained” him to see the degree to which former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations have “created strains in the relationship” with the German chancellor he labeled one of his “closest friends on the world’s stage.”
“We do not have a blanket no-spy agreement with any country,” said Obama.
However, the president noted that he has taken “unprecedented” steps toward in “closing some of those gaps” that exist between the two countries on surveillance. Obama said that in recent years advancing technology has “tipped over” traditional expectations, but that he will create a stronger legal framework for surveillance by the time he leaves office.
Merkel stressed that both countries would need to do more than “business as usual” on the technological surveillance front, saying that the two countries “have a few difficulties yet to overcome.” Merkel restated that both countries are beginning to engage in a “cyber dialogue” that is high on the agenda in the weeks to come.
The two world leaders’ words come as many German officials are calling for Merkel to demand that her NSA file is destroyed, and to push Obama for closer US cooperation with other western allies. According to the Guardian, the U.S. government has continued to refuse Merkel to access the NSA file showing its surveillance activities directed toward her.