German politicians to use encrypted phones to block NSA spying

German Chancellor Merkel holds a BlackBerry Z10 smartphone featuring high security Secusite software at the booth of Secusmart during her opening tour at the CeBit computer fair in Hanover

Members of the German government will use encrypted phones as part of ‘urgent’ guidelines to protect against NSA snooping. The encryption software is not compatible with Apple, so Germany will phase out the use of iPhones at government level.

Germany’s two main political parties – the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) – have agreed on new guidelines to ensure ministers are protected from having their communications intercepted by spy agencies. As part of the new regulations, politicians and high-ranking officials will be required to make calls on encrypted phones.

Software approved by Germany’s Bonn Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) will be used to protect phones from outside meddling. The program itself is incompatible with Apple technology, so German ministers will be forbidden from using iPhones for official communications, reports newspaper The Local.

“Our conversations and communication structure have to be safer,” the government report said in the wake of the spy scandal that revealed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s communications had been monitored by the NSA.

The German Chancellor addressed the reports of NSA spying on Germany, leaked to the press by former CIA employee Edward Snowden, on Monday at a parliamentary hearing. She slammed the allegations of mass espionage as “grave” and said they had put transatlantic relations “to the test.”

Merkel called on the US spy organization to clarify the future of their activities in the European country to encourage “the creation of a new transatlantic confidence.” German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich also attacked Washington’s handling of the NSA scandal.

"The Americans need to clear up the allegations, they cannot become caught up in contradictions," Friedrich said. Snowden’s security leaks revealed Washington’s extensive spy program in Europe that recorded millions of phone calls and intercepted electronic correspondence on a massive scale. Furthermore, a report in October said that the NSA could have been monitoring the communications of Chancellor Merkel since 2002.

It was also revealed the US had used the embassy in Berlin as a base for spy operations. German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that Merkel’s phone had been listed by the NSA's Special Collection Service (SCS) since 2002 – marked as “GE Chancellor Merkel.” Moreover, the Chancellor was still on the list just weeks before President Barack Obama was due for an official visit to Berlin in June.

In response to the spy scandal Germany is pressing for a no-spying agreement to be included in a transatlantic free-trade deal.

“The negotiations for a free trade agreement are presently, without doubt, being put to the test,” said Merkel on Monday. Talks will be held with EU representatives in Washington..

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