Dec 11, 2014 6:05 AM

German prosecutor: little progress on Merkel phone

The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) Germany's chief federal prosecutor said Thursday his office so far has found no actionable evidence that Chancellor Angela Merkel's calls were tapped by the U.S. National Security Agency, but the investigation continues.

Prosecutor Harald Range in June opened an investigation into the alleged monitoring of a cellphone Merkel used for party business, a saga that has weighed on relations between Germany and the U.S.

At a televised year-end news conference, Range set out difficulties the investigation faces in turning up evidence that would stand up in court.

"As of today, there is no evidence leading to charges that connection data were recorded or a phone call by the chancellor was listened to," he said.

German magazine Der Spiegel broke the story of the alleged monitoring last year, citing documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Range said his office doesn't have an original NSA document ordering the surveillance, and that Der Spiegel invoked its right to refuse testimony in response to a request to provide the original or answer questions about it.

The NSA has declined to comment, Snowden hasn't responded to an offer to give a written statement, and requests for information to various German security authorities "haven't taken us further," Range said.

However, he said the investigation continues and will take account of what a separate parliamentary inquiry finds out.

Range indicated that an investigation of a German intelligence agent suspected of passing some 200 documents to the Central Intelligence Agency, and also of offering his services to Russia, is going better. That case prompted Berlin this year to demand Washington's top spy in Berlin leave the country.

Range said he expects to conclude the investigation in early 2015 and, "if nothing fundamental changes," it could lead to the first charges of spying for the U.S. in postwar Germany.


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