Jesse Singal, USA TODAY
BERLIN -The U.S. ambassador to Germany was summoned to a meeting in Berlin Thursday following allegations that the U.S. had tapped the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The ambassador John Emerson is to meet with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle later Thursday, after Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the chancellor had spoken Wednesday evening with President Obama via telephone. Seibert said that if the allegations were found to be true it would be "completely unacceptable."
"Among close friends and partners, as Germany and the U.S. have been for decades, there should be no such monitoring of government communications," he said. "This would be a serious breach of trust. Such practices must be stopped immediately."
He added that high level talks with representatives of the White House and the State Department had already taken place in Berlin to clarify the facts but that talks would be ongoing.
Germany has been one of Washington's closest allies in Europe. The U.S. was West Germany's protector during the Cold War and the country is still home to thousands of U.S. troops.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials said Merkel's phone is not currently being tapped and would not be in the future but didn't comment on the allegations that it had previously been.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that "the president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring, and will not monitor, the communications of the chancellor."
Emerson is the second U.S. ambassador ordered this week to report to officials of a major EU country as a result of the ongoing fallout over the NSA files leaked by government contractor Edward Snowden.
Charles H. Rivkin was summoned to meet with French officials after a major French newspaper reported that the National Security Agency had collected tens of millions of communications from French citizens, and had spied on diplomats.
Analysts said that while the allegations could do ongoing political damage to the Obama administration and its relationship with the EU, spying is a fact of modern life among allies.
"I'm somewhat surprised that people are surprised nations spy upon each other," said Charles King Mallory IV, former head of the Aspen Institute in Germany. "This happens."
Moreover, Mallory said the German government had long been aware of U.S. attempts to access Merkel's communications, adding that a former chief of German intelligence told him about the spying a year and a half ago.
"We were discussing the NSA, and he said, 'I happen to know for a fact that they're capable of penetrating the communications of our chancellery,'" said Mallory. "So, I think there is a certain amount of political Kabuki that is going on."
Other analysts said the spying points to a U.S.-German relationship that, while close-knit on issues like security, is also marked by real and growing rivalry over trade.
"This is one of several aspects that tells me that we have a huge rivalry going on that's getting stronger," said Josef Braml of the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "I wouldn't even rule out industrial espionage - that's probably a bigger issue."
The reaction in Germany showed that data protection remains a very politically potent issue here. Just shy of a quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall many still have vivid memories of the Communist East German Stasi security forces, which regularly monitored the communications of both East and West German citizens.
"A greater affront by a friendly country is hardly conceivable," declared the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung in a front-page article.
On the other side of the political aisle, the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that Obama and his administration "have diminished the trans-Atlantic relationship - even to a major degree."
Leaders of the EU's 28 countries meet in Brussels later Thursday for a long-planned summit.
On Wednesday, European lawmakers called for the suspension of an agreement that grants U.S. authorities access to bank data for terror-related investigations, a sharp rebuke of Washington's surveillance programs.