Germany Spied On Kerry and Clinton Says Der Spiegel, But It's Not As Awkward As It Sounds

In what many are calling a pot-and-kettle situation, German magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday that German intelligence spied on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, allegedly listening into and recording their private phone calls. Though the revelations are potentially unsurprising (doesn't it feel like everyone is spying on everyone at this point?), they still might have been embarrassing for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has publicly criticized the U.S. for its spying practices. Instead, though, the report only highlights how badly the U.S. behaved.

A quick refresher, in case all of the Edward Snowden leaks have become a bit of a blur now: In October of last year, when the National Security Agency was getting outed for missteps left, right and center, it was revealed that U.S. intelligence had tapped Merkel’s personal cell phone. This (understandably) made the chancellor so upset that she spoke directly to President Barack Obama in order to demand an explanation — one that, it turned out, he couldn't quite give. Relations went from bad to worse when it came out that Merkel's aides' phones were also being tapped; and a month ago, a German intelligence agent was arrested after being accused of spying for the Americans. Suffice to say, Germany has been pretty cold to its so-called ally ever since.

Which is what could have made Saturday's revelations — if true — a bit uncomfortable for the Germans. The report alleges that intelligence agents at Germany's BND recorded a 2013 phone call Kerry had while he was negotiating between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. It also claims that BND recorded a 2012 call between Hillary Clinton and Kofi Annan, the United Nations representative, regarding the negotiations in Syria. The report wouldn't name any sources.

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If the report had been left at that, it might have indeed been a little damning for the German government. But it wasn't: The magazine added that the interceptions had been accidental — "bycatch" — and that in no way had Kerry or Clinton been targeted specifically. The report also added that the recordings were meant to be destroyed right away, a fact backed up by a BND spokeswoman who told Reuters Germany that "any accidental recordings are deleted immediately." This is a far cry from the spying that the U.S. did on Germany, which involved specifically monitoring the chancellor's personal cell.

Really, rather than making the German intelligence look bad, the report is just a reminder of how over-the-line the N.S.A.'s actions were.