Der Spiegel has claimed that German intelligence services spied on John Kerry’s phone as part of its surveillance of Middle East telecommunications.
Der Spiegel has claimed that German intelligence services spied on John Kerry’s phone as part of its surveillance of Middle East telecommunications.Reuters

Germany's foreign intelligence services eavesdropped on phone calls made by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor Hillary Clinton, German magazine Der Spiegel has claimed.

The news weekly reported that Bundesnachrichtendienst – known by its German acronym BND – wiretapped a satellite phone conversation Kerry made in 2013 as part of its surveillance of Middle East telecommunications.

The BND also intercepted a conversation between Clinton and former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan a year earlier, Der Spiegel reported.

The magazine said the calls were collected by accident and that the three senior officials had not been directly targeted. The recordings were reportedly destroyed immediately after they were collected.

Der Spiegel also cited a confidential 2009 BND document which identified Turkey, a member of Nato, as a target for German intelligence gathering.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Berlin declined to comment on the report. The BND did not respond to a request for comment.

Embarrassing revelation

The revelation is likely to cause embarrassment to the German government, which has publicly criticised the US after leaked NSA documents revealed that the agency allegedly wiretapped German chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

Merkel personally complained to US president Barack Obama about the alleged tapping last October and in June this year, Germany's federal prosecutor opened an investigation into the surveillance claims.

"I informed parliament's legal affairs committee that I have started a preliminary investigation over tapping of a mobile phone of the chancellor," federal prosecutor Harald Range said.

Last month, Der Spiegel reported that the Israeli Intelligence Community intercepted Kerry's phone calls while he was attempting to reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority earlier this year.

The secretary of state used encrypted phone lines, but also discussed issues with Israel, Palestine and the Arab states on normal phones, enabling Israeli intelligence officers to intercept his unsecured conversations.

The Israeli government subsequently used the information obtained from Kerry's conversations in its negotiations. The peace talks fell apart at the end of April.