Well, this is certainly going to be awkward all the way around, though completely predictable.
German secret agents intercepted one of Hillary Clinton’s phone calls while she was US secretary of state and also listened in to a call by John Kerry, her successor, it emerged this weekend, in an embarrassing reversal of the spying scandal that blew up when it was revealed last year that America bugged Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.
Mrs Clinton was on a US government plane when German intelligence services overheard her call and, against their own internal protocol, stored it, intelligence sources told German media.
The intercepted phone call took place in 2012 between Mrs Clinton and Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, who had just returned from negotiations in Syria and wanted to brief her, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.
Der Spiegel also claimed that agents from the state intelligence services listened in on a phone call by John Kerry, the current US secretary of state – and that Germany has been spying on its NATO ally Turkey since 2009.
Can we just start from the default point of acknowledging that, regardless of how outraged everyone likes to act, all of the allies are probably spying on each other, or at least trying to? Israel spies on us, Germany spies on us, we spy on everyone. We might let Canada off the hook here because, honestly, who cares what the Canadians are up to unless it involves taking Justin Beiber back. The interesting part of the German “explanation” here is how they characterize the interception of Kerry’s phone call.
German intelligence sources have tried to minimise the impact of the revelations by explaining that the interception of the phone calls of both secretaries of state was only done “by accident”.
The secret agents had not meant to hear Mrs Clinton’s call or to keep the recording of it, according to a joint media investigation published on Friday by Sudddeutsche Zeitung, a German broadsheet newspaper and NDR and WDR, two German regional public broadcasting outlets.
A source told the outlets that the fact that the recording of the phone call had not been immediately destroyed, as is apparently routinely done if allies’ phone calls are picked up by accident, was “idiocy”.
Wait… so you picked up – and recorded – a call from our Secretary of State by accident? How exactly does that happen? You’re going through the mail and suddenly there’s a DVD there which you assume is for more free minutes from America On Line, but when you pop it into your laptop… oops!
Also, just how bad is our data protection that SecState calls are being routinely intercepted and “destroyed” by our friends?
In any event, this will likely require some backtracking from Angela Merkel. You may recall her speech when she demanded “action” from the United States to “rebuild the shattered trust” between our nations. And these intercepted phone calls took place well before the revelations of our spying on them, so this wasn’t some sort of tit for tat maneuver.
A bit of a sticky wicket, eh? Oh, wait.. .that’s the Brits.