Photo Gallery Spies in the Embassy

According to SPIEGEL research, United States intelligence agencies have not only targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone, they have also used the American Embassy in Berlin as a listening station. The revelations now pose a serious threat to German-American relations.
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According to SPIEGEL research, United States intelligence agencies have not only targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone, they have also used the American Embassy in Berlin as a listening station. The revelations now pose a serious threat to German-American relations.

Foto: Charles Dharapak/ ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Wiretapping from an embassy is illegal in nearly every country. But documents show that is precisely the task of the SCS. The unit can apparently intercept cell phone signals while simultaneously locating people of interest. This "top secret" NSA document shows what appears to be an SCS antenna system with the code name "Einstein" and its corresponding control device "Castanet."

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This "top secret" NSA document outlines the SCS unit's capabilities. Another secret list seen by SPIEGEL reveals that its agents are active worldwide in around 80 locations, 19 of which are in Europe -- cities such as Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague and Geneva. The SCS maintains two bases in Germany, one in Berlin and another in Frankfurt. That alone is unusual. But in addition, both German bases are equipped at the highest level and staffed with active personnel.

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The SCS teams predominantly work undercover in shielded areas of the American Embassy and Consulate, where they are officially accredited as diplomats and as such enjoy special privileges. Under diplomatic protection, they are able to look and listen unhindered. They just can't get caught. Pictured here and in the next slide are extracts from a secret NSA document with guidelines for surveillance based out of diplomatic facilities.

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The necessary equipment is usually installed on the upper floors of the embassy buildings or on rooftops where the technology is covered with screens or Potemkin-like structures that protect it from prying eyes. That is also apparently the case in Berlin.

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The scandal unleashed by these latest revelations has shaken the certainties of German politics, possibly endangering the long-anticipated trans-Atlantic free trade agreement. But until recently it sounded as if the government had faith in the intelligence agencies of its ally. In mid-August Chancellery Chief of Staff Ronald Pofalla (pictured) offhandedly described the NSA scandal as finished. Now it is not just Pofalla who stands disgraced, but Merkel as well. She appears like a head of government who only stands up to Obama when she herself is a target of the US intelligence services.

Foto: Rainer Jensen/ dpa
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Last Wednesday the chancellor placed a strongly worded phone call to US President Barack Obama. Sixty-two percent of Germans approve of Merkel's harsh reaction, according to a survey by polling institute YouGov. A quarter think it was too mild. In a gesture of displeasure usually reserved for rogue states, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoned the new US ambassador, John Emerson (pictured), for a meeting at the Foreign Office.

Foto: ? Tobias Schwarz / Reuters/ Reuters