January 20, 2014 By SPIEGEL Staff
Germany and the US appear to be edging closer to political confrontation. The Federal Prosecutor says there is sufficient evidence to open a politically explosive investigation into NSA spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.
Last Tuesday, on the sidelines of an Social Democrat party caucus in Berlin, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas ran into Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Maas pulled his fellow SPD member aside and warned him about what could become a difficult matter. "Something may be coming our way," Maas whispered, and noted that the foreign minister could be affected as well. Germany's federal prosecutor, Maas intimated, is currently considering opening an investigation into the scandal surrounding the surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone by US intelligence. It's a step that would undoubtedly be considered an affront by the Americans.
Steinmeier listened attentively and nodded several times, but he didn't say much. At the start of his second posting as foreign minister (he previously served for four years from 2005-2009), Steinmeier is facing the extremely tricky problem of new discord in German-American relations.
The current difficulties got their start in October, when SPIEGEL reported that US intelligence services were interested in Merkel's mobile phone. When the magazine published its report, the National Security Agency's curiosity suddenly became an open act of provocation.