European leaders warned yesterday that relations with the United States could be severely damaged after fresh allegations of US spying on European Union diplomats and communications.
Newly leaked National Security Agency (NSA) documents state that EU offices in Washington and New York were bugged and that data on half a billion telephone calls, emails and text messages was harvested from Germany and France every month.
"The Americans were able to access discussions in EU rooms, as well as emails and internal documents on computers," according to a report in the German news magazine Der Spiegel.
NSA officials were said to describe Germany as a "third-class partner" and boast that US spies "attack the signals" of Germans as extensively as they monitor states like China and Saudi Arabia.
The documents claim that the NSA monitored about 20 million German telephone calls and 10 million internet communications a day, as well as two million online connections in France.
Some senior European politicians yesterday lined up to condemn the US for using Cold War-style tactics against its allies, threatening ongoing negotiations over a US-EU free trade pact.
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said the EU was demanding "full clarification and require[s] further information speedily from the US authorities".
"If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations," said Schulz.
The latest top-secret documents were released by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has exposed a series of classified operations since fleeing his job at a listening post in Hawaii in May.
Germany's Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, described the allegations as "reminiscent of methods used by enemies during the Cold War".
"If these reports are true, it's disgusting," said Luxembourg's Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn. "The EU and its diplomats are not terrorists. We need a guarantee from the very highest level that it stops immediately."
France's Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said he had "asked the American authorities for an explanation".
Meanwhile, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said Snowden was "under the care of the Russian authorities" and unable to leave Moscow's international airport without their consent, telegraphing the diminishing possibility that the leaker will end up in Ecuador.
Correa portrayed Russia as the master of Snowden's fate and said Ecuador was still awaiting an asylum request from him before deciding its next moves.