Germany's foreign intelligence agency eavesdropped on calls made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton, according to a report Saturday in the German magazine Der Spiegel.
If true, the revelations would be embarrassing for the German government, which has vociferously complained to Washington in recent months about alleged American spy activity in Germany, most notably allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. German prosecutors have since opened an investigation into the matter.
According to the Der Spiegel report, the German intelligence agency, known by its acronym BND, tapped a satellite phone conversation Kerry made in 2013 as part of its surveillance of telecommunications in the Middle East.
The agency also recorded a conversation between Clinton and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan a year earlier, Der Spiegel reported.
The magazine didn't give a source for its information, citing only anonymous security sources, but said the calls were collected accidentally, that the three officials weren't directly targeted and the recordings were ordered destroyed immediately. In Clinton's case, the call reportedly took place on the same "frequency" as a terror suspect, according to Der Spiegel.
The tapping of Clinton's call was first reported Friday by German public broadcaster ARD and Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Last year, German media reports based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden prompted a sharp rebuke from German officials, including Merkel.
U.S. and BND officials have declined to comment on the latest report.
In its report Saturday, Der Spiegel also cited a confidential 2009 BND document listing fellow NATO member Turkey as a target for German intelligence gathering.
The issue of American spying erupted again last month when two alleged German double agents working for U.S. intelligence were unmasked. The German government took the extraordinary step in early July of demanding that the CIA station chief in Germany leave the country, following intense pressure on Merkel to respond to what many Germans called a humiliating violation of national sovereignty.
Merkel said there were far more critical things on which to spy and that snooping on friends eroded trust.
"We are not living in the Cold War any more and are exposed to different threats. We should concentrate on what is essential," she said last month.
Al Jazeera and wire services