U.S. spy agency tapped German chancellery for decades: WikiLeaks

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The U.S. National Security Agency tapped phone calls involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her closest advisers for years and spied on the staff of her predecessors, WikiLeaks said on Wednesday.

A report released by the group suggested NSA spying on Merkel and her staff had gone on far longer and more widely than previously realized. WikiLeaks said the NSA targeted for long-term surveillance 125 phone numbers of top German officials.

The release risks renewing tensions between Germany and the United States a month after they sought to put a row over spying behind them, with U.S. President Barack Obama declaring in Bavaria that the two nations were "inseparable allies".

WikiLeaks published what it said were three NSA intercepts of Merkel's conversations, and data it said listed telephone numbers for the chancellor, her aides, her office and even her fax machine.

"The names associated with some of the targets indicate that spying on the Chancellery predates Angela Merkel as it includes staff of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (in office 1998-2002), and his predecessor Helmut Kohl," WikiLeaks added in a statement.

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U.S. spy agency tapped German chancellery for decades: WikiLeaks
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 02: A woman rides a bicycle past the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture on July 2, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The online whistleblower platform Wikileaks claims to have documents showing the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on German government ministries, including the ministries of finance, economy and agriculture, in the period from 2010 to 2012. The NSA has come under repeated criticism for supposedly spying on European government and political leaders. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 02: Signs are seen on the wall of the Federal Ministry for Economy and Energy at dusk on July 1, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The online whistleblower platform Wikileaks claims to have documents showing the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on German government ministries, including the ministries of finance, economy and agriculture, in the period from 2010 to 2012. The NSA has come under repeated criticism for supposedly spying on European government and political leaders. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pulls her earphone during a joint press conference with the Prime Minster of Italy, Matteo Renzi, as part of a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery Ronald Pofalla speaks during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Monday Aug. 12, 2013. The senior German official says Germany and the U.S. will begin talks this month on an agreement not to spy on one another in wake of the revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, told reporters such an agreement would offer a unique opportunity to set standards for future work of Western intelligence agencies after the Cold War. U.S. Embassy spokesman Peter Claussen said he had no immediate comment to Pofalla's remarks, which were made following a meeting of a parliamentary committee overseeing intelligence services. (AP Photo/dpa,Rainer Jensen)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech on the second day of a four days debate of a debt free national budget for 2015 at the parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the final four days debate of a debt free national budget for 2015 at the parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Demonstrators hold a poster showing a portrait of German Chancellor Angela Merkel reading "surveillance Chancellor" and a fake surveillance camera during a protest against the supposed surveillance by the US National Security Agency, NSA, and the German intelligence agency, BND, during a rally in front of the construction site of the new headquarters of German intelligence agency in Berlin, Germany, Monday July 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
The president of German Intelligence Agency (BND) Gerhard Schindler stands in front of the giant golf ball-shaped radomes in Bad Aibling, near Munich , Germany, Friday June 6, 2014. Germany's foreign intelligence agency officially lifted the lid on some of its worst-kept secrets Friday, acknowledging that half a dozen facilities around the country are in fact spy stations — as anyone with Internet access could already figure out. The agency was holding a ceremony at the site in Bad Aibling Friday to attach its logo officially to the entrance. (AP Photo/dpa, Stephan Jansen)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. Merkel is in Australia to attend the G-20 summit in Brisbane and an official visit to Sydney and Canberra.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A satellite dish is photographed inside of a receiver, a so-called Radom, at the German Intelligence Agency,BND , facility near the Mangfall barracks in Bad Aibling,, near Munich Germany, Friday June 6, 2014. Germany's foreign intelligence agency officially lifted the lid on some of its worst-kept secrets Friday, acknowledging that half a dozen facilities around the country are in fact spy stations — as anyone with Internet access could already figure out. (AP Photo/dpa,Stephan Jansen)
The president of the German Intelligence Agency, BND, , Gerhard Schindler, stands in front of a facility with a new attached logo in Bad Aibling, Germany Friday June 6, 2014. Germany's foreign intelligence agency officially lifted the lid on some of its worst-kept secrets Friday, acknowledging that half a dozen facilities around the country are in fact spy stations — as anyone with Internet access could already figure out. (AP Photo/dpa, Stephan Jansen)
Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery Ronald Pofalla speaks during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Monday Aug. 12, 2013. The senior German official says Germany and the U.S. will begin talks this month on an agreement not to spy on one another in wake of the revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, told reporters such an agreement would offer a unique opportunity to set standards for future work of Western intelligence agencies after the Cold War. U.S. Embassy spokesman Peter Claussen said he had no immediate comment to Pofalla's remarks, which were made following a meeting of a parliamentary committee overseeing intelligence services. (AP Photo/dpa,Tim Brakemeier)
Demonstrators hold a banner during a protest against the supposed surveillance by the US National Security Agency, NSA, and the German intelligence agency, BND, during a rally in front of the construction site of the new headquarters of German intelligence agency in Berlin, Germany, Monday July 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
Demonstrators hold a placard during a protest against the supposed surveillance by the US National Security Agency, NSA, and the German intelligence agency, BND, during a rally in front of the construction site of the new headquarters of German intelligence agency in Berlin, Germany, Monday July 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel reflects in a glass window of the visitors tribune as she delivers her speech on the second day of a four days debate of a debt free national budget for 2015 at the parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and the Prime Minister of Kosovo Isa Mustafa brief the media after bilateral talks at the chancellery in Berlin, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
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No comment was immediately available from the German government.

The intercepts released on Wednesday detailed communications from Merkel in 2009 on the international financial crisis, with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates in 2009 on Iran, and with advisers in 2011 on the euro zone crisis.

The targeted phone numbers included those for the cellphones of senior officials at the chancellery and included that of Ronald Pofalla, Merkel's former chief of staff, WikiLeaks said.

Spying is a sensitive issue in Germany because of the abuses of the Nazi and Communist eras. Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging U.S. espionage in Germany caused outrage when they surfaced.

The spying row has also been stirred by allegations that Merkel's staff gave the German BND foreign intelligence agency a green light to help the NSA spy on European firms and officials.

The latest WikiLeaks release comes just over a week after it published a report showing the NSA wiretapped the communications of two successive French finance ministers and collected information on French export contracts, trade and budget talks.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; editing by Andrew Roche)

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