Germany has dropped an investigative probe into the alleged tapping of Angela Merkel’s cellphone by the National Security Agency (NSA).
According to BBC News, the office of federal prosecutor Harold Range said that not enough evidence had been obtained to justify legal action.
Germany’s decision to drop the probe marks the end of an incident that has strained American-German relations for nearly two years.
Back in October of 2013, Der Spiegel broke a story alleging that the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency had tapped the cellphone of Angela Merkel. This finding was based on reporters’ research, talks with intelligence officers, and an internal evaluation of NSA documents released by Edward Snowden.
Approximately one year later in December of 2014, Range announced that his office had failed to provide proof that Merkel’s phone had indeed been tapped. Furthermore, he stated that the document published by the media did “not come from an NSA database.”
The situation has apparently not changed since then. Today, Range and his fellow prosecutors said that they have been unable to obtain a single original document that proves that the tapping occurred and that the alleged NSA document allows for various interpretations.
They went on to explain that they see no point in continuing the investigation given the fact that journalists who publish documents released by Snowden are entitled to refuse testimony and that public statements made by Snowden suggest he has no personal knowledge of the phone tapping.
“The vague comments by US 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,” the prosecutors 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.”
Germany’s decision follows on the heels of new legislation enacted by the United States government that will curtail somewhat the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency, as well as an independent reviewer’s recommendation that the United Kingdom overhaul its surveillance powers with a new and comprehensive framework.