At the EU summit on Thursday, the German chancellor clarified that she makes a point of conducting conversations about party political issues and matters of state through a variety channels.
"For all communication relevant to matters of state there are landlines, encrypted lines and if you are away from the landline, there are encrypted mobiles," she emphasised, later adding that "those [mobiles] which are less encrypted are more likely to be bugged than those that are encrypted".
Secusmart, the company that built the chancellor's "safe" phone, issued a statement saying that its product had not been bugged. "We still meet the highest security standards", said the company's co-founder,
But some newspapers reported that German politicians, Merkel included, have not always been so disciplined in their use of "safe" communication. The secure technology was often slow and complicated to use – for technical reasons, there is often a time-delay during conversations, for example.
Some ministers had reportedly handed their secure mobiles to junior colleagues and used their old
The number of Merkel's CDU phone had originally been found on an NSA list by
If the NSA did hack Merkel's CDU phone, it would indicate that it did so mainly because it could, rather than because it was trying to access crucial intelligence. On German social media, people were wondering why American spies would have listened in to mind-numbing conversations about CDU fundraisers, committee meetings and office parties.
In a further twist, Suddeutsche Zeitung is reporting that the bugging of Merkel's phone may have been carried out via the US embassy in
The SCS is said to have been around since the 1970s. In his 1994 book Spyworld, the US whistleblower
In order to collect surveillance information, these spies would need a local "collection point". Several German papers are speculating if this may be situated in the US embassy, located next to the Brandenburg Gate and close to the Reichstag building where the German parliament holds its sessions.
On 28 August, a German state helicopter had flown over the US embassy and taken photographs, reportedly to check for antennae indicating the presence of surveillance technology. At the time, Focus news magazine reported that the embassy had complained about the helicopter flight to the German foreign office.
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