WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Wednesday to hold a high-level meeting between security officials from their countries in the coming days to discuss in greater detail reports of surveillance activities by the U.S. National Security Agency, the White House said.
In a statement, the White House said the two leaders discussed by telephone reports last week that the NSA bugged European Union offices in Washington, New York and Brussels. The revelations were attributed in part to information supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has admitting revealing key details of U.S. surveillance activities.
While traveling in Africa last week, Obama pushed back against objections from key allies over a report in the German weekly Der Spiegel that the U.S. had installed listening devices in EU offices, suggesting that such activity by government is not unusual.
Obama has said the administration will evaluate the claims in the report and inform U.S. allies about the allegations. He assured Merkel during the conversation that the U.S. takes seriously the concerns of its European allies and partners.
The White House said the leaders also looked forward to the initiation of a U.S.-EU/EU member state dialogue, which could begin as early as next week, on the collection and oversight of intelligence and questions of privacy and data protection.
During the call, Merkel also offered her condolences on the deaths of 19 firefighters in Arizona.