The French statement came as European allies struggled to understand and confront questions at home about what their own intelligence agencies were up to, even as they continued to demand explanations from the Obama administration.
As the NSA spying controversy widened, a U.N. spokesman said U.S. authorities have “given assurances that United Nations communications are not and will not be monitored.” Spokesman Martin Nesirky made no reference to reports of past interception programs.
Meanwhile, a senior German official said his government may feel compelled to take harsh measures against the United States, an ally, after revelations that the NSA tapped the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel for years.
“If it should prove true that the NSA listened in on the chancellor, we may as a measure expel diplomats,” German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said in an interview with the Rheinische Post newspaper.
On Wednesday, Merkel’s national security adviser and her intelligence chief met in Washington with top administration officials, including national security adviser Susan E. Rice; Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser; and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.
The White House characterized the talks as “an opportunity to hear from one another and jointly determine how the dialogue can best proceed in order to provide the necessary assurance and strengthen our cooperation.” The brief statement by National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin M. Hayden said, “We don’t have any new announcements to make today, but look forward to continuing these discussions in the coming days and weeks.”
In Berlin, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said the meeting would be quickly followed by a U.S. visit by the heads of Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies. Merkel and French President François Hollande have spearheaded an effort to develop a new code of intelligence conduct within the European Union, and Seibert said Germany wants a no-spying pact with the United States.
Other top German officials said U.S. lawmakers’ anger at some of the spying revelations was a positive sign that the United States may be close to a policy change.
“I am a little bit hopeful that there will be a continuing, open discussion in the United States,” Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said in an interview. “I hope that there will be a very engaged debate about privacy on the one side and security on the other.”