Spain calls in U.S. ambassador to complain of spying

U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costos, left, leaves the Spanish Foreign Ministry in Madrid.
U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costos, left, leaves the Spanish Foreign Ministry in Madrid.
(Gerard Julien / AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON -- Spanish officials summoned the U.S. ambassador Monday to discuss allegations that the American government has intercepted tens of millions of Spanish phone calls in recent years.

In an article based on documents released by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, a major Spanish newspaper said the agency had spied on more than 60 million phone calls in the country between December 2012 and early January 2013 alone, according to a graphic in the documents titled “Spain – the last 30 days.”

According to the report by the daily El Mundo, the documents do not include the content of phone calls. However, they do include details of phones used, such as registration and phone numbers, identity of phone owners and SIM cards.


“The government reiterated to the ambassador its concern regarding information in the press in the last few days and underlined that every system must maintain the necessary balance between security and protecting the privacy and intimacy of communications, as clearly laid down in Spanish legislation,” the Spanish Foreign Ministry said.

The statement followed a 40-minute exchange between Ambassador James Costos and Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Spain’s secretary of state for the European Union.

Costos acknowledged in a U.S. Embassy statement “that some of our closest allies have raised concerns about the recent series of unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”

His summons followed complaints from other European capitals, including those in France, Germany, Italy and Sweden, over allegations of intercepts by the NSA of government and citizen phone calls.

Costos noted in his statement that “President Obama has ordered an internal review to ensure that the intelligence that is collected under these programs is not just all the intelligence that the United States is able to collect, but rather intelligence that should and needs to be collected.”

Last week Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel complained to Obama about reports that the NSA may have tapped her cellphone.

“Not everything, which may be possible technically, is also politically sensible,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the German weekly Der Spiegel in an article published Sunday.

He echoed comments by Merkel at an EU meeting last week saying that the reports undermined the transatlantic relationship between the EU and the U.S. and calling for a meeting with American authorities before the end of the year.


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Stobart is a news assistant in The Times’ London bureau.