Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors close Merkel phone spy­ing probe


Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors on Fri­day closed their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­leged tap­ping of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s cell­phone by the U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, say­ing they have been un­able to find ev­i­dence that would stand up in court.

Pros­e­cu­tors last June opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­leged mon­i­tor­ing of a cell­phone Merkel used for party busi­ness. Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel had bro­ken the story in late 2013, cit­ing doc­u­ments pro­vided by NSA leaker Ed­ward Snow­den.

The is­sue has weighed on rela- tions be­tween Ger­many and the U.S.

How­ever, chief fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor Har­ald Range sig­naled in De­cem­ber al­ready that the probe wasn’t go­ing well, say­ing that he had found no ac­tion­able ev­i­dence.

Range’s of­fice said Fri­day it has been un­able to get hold of an orig­i­nal doc­u­ment prov­ing the al­leged spy­ing, and that a pub­lished tran­script of an NSA doc­u­ment al­lows for var­i­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

“The doc­u­ments pub­lished in the me­dia so far that come from Ed­ward Snow­den also con­tain no ev­i­dence of sur­veil­lance of the cell­phone used by the chan­cel­lor solid enough for a court,” it said in a state­ment.

Pros­e­cu­tors said they see no prospect of suc­cess in con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate. They noted that jour­nal­ists in­volved in pub­lish­ing Snow­den’s doc­u­ments are en­ti­tled to refuse tes­ti­mony, and ar­gued that public state­ments by Snow­den give no in­di­ca­tion that he has per­sonal knowl­edge of the sur­veil­lance of Merkel’s phone.

“The vague com­ments by U.S. of­fi­cials about pos­si­ble sur­veil­lance of the chan­cel­lor’s mo­bile telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion by a U.S. in­tel­li­gence ser­vice — `not any more’ — are not enough to de­scribe what hap­pened,” they added.

“The com­ments, which were viewed in public as a gen­eral ad­mis­sion of guilt, do not dis­charge us from (ful­fill­ing) the bur­den of proof ac­cord­ing to the re­quire­ments of crim­i­nal pro­ce­dure.”

Merkel’s spokesman, St­ef­fen Seibert, de­clined to com­ment on the pros­e­cu­tors’ de­ci­sion, but said the chan­cel­lor had al­ways stressed that her con­cern wasn’t re­stricted to the tap­ping of her own cell­phone and ex­tended to sur­veil­lance of Ger­mans in gen­eral.

Seibert said the gov­ern­ment would con­tinue to raise the is­sue of bal­anc­ing se­cu­rity and pri­vacy with part­ners, in­clud­ing the United States.

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