- The Washington Times - Friday, May 2, 2014

With President Obama standing beside her, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday she still has “differences of opinion” with the U.S. over the level of spying needed to combat terrorism.

At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Mrs. Merkel said the issue “requires further discussion” between the two leaders.

Mrs. Merkel and many of her constituents were incensed last year when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. had spied on her communications, including her cell phone. 

“There are differences of opinion on what sort of balance to strike between the intensity of surveillance, of trying to protect the citizens against threats and on the other hand protecting individual privacy and individual freedom,” she said through a translator, after a lengthy meeting with Mr. Obama in the Oval Office. She would not say that trust has been restored between the two governments.

Mr. Obama said Friday Mrs. Merkel “is one of my closest friends on the world stage and somebody whose partnership I deeply value.”

“And so it has pained me to see the degree to which the Snowden disclosures have created strains in the relationship,” he said. 

The president said he has taken “the unprecedented step of ordering our intelligence communities to take the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons into account in everything that they do.”

“Ordinary Germans are not subject to continual surveillance, are not subject to a whole range of bulk data gathering,” Mr. Obama said.

The president said he has pledged to Mrs. Merkel that the U.S. will “apply privacy standards to how we deal with non-U.S. persons as well as U.S. persons,” and to better coordinate German and U.S. cyber intelligence gathering methods.

“We’re not perfectly aligned yet, but we share the same values and we share the same concerns,” he said.