British embassy spying

News that Britain is operating a secret embassy-based eavesdropping site in Berlin caused a “serious diplomatic crisis between the two countries,” according to a BBC report.

Ambassador Simon McDonald was "called in" on Tuesday 5 November by the German Foreign Office at the request of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to respond to the report that a cylindrical structure on the roof of the British embassy in central Berlin housed electronic surveillance equipment monitoring communications signals and phone calls.

UK government spokespeople attempted to underplay the incident.  But it was the first time a British ambassador has been summoned by German officials in this way since WWII.   ITV News reported that the affair is being taken "a lot more seriously in the German capital than some people in Britain might imagine."

The Foreign Ministry also released a statement saying that, “The head of the European Department asked for a response to current reports in the British media [and has] pointed out that the interception of communications from the premises of a diplomatic mission would be behaviour contrary to international law.”

The white tent-like “nest” at the centre of the story has been present on the roof since the British embassy opened in 2000, and is located only a few hundred metres from the Bundestag -the German Parliament - and government offices.

Google Earth's 3D buildings feature can be used to see how prominent the British listening station is above the Berlin skyline - and its clear line-of-sight to government buildings, including the Chancery (left arrow) and the Bundestag (right arrow).  The Russian embassy is also a block away.

A view of the4 British embassy's spy nest overlooking the German Parliament buildings. The Reichstag is on the right, and the Budestag on the left.

The UK bugging scandal comes barely a week after Der Spiegel exposed how the US was targeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phones and using its Berlin embassy as a covert “listening station.”

Two thermal images of the US embassy taken a day apart during the investigation appear to show a dramatic eight degrees reduction in the temperature of electronic equipment inside-  suggesting that the listening devises were turned off after Merkel's call with US president Barak Obama in which she demanded to know if her phones were being tapped.   The answer appears to have been "not any more".  White House Press Secretary James Carney told reporters that "the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the Chancellor."



The US “listening station” on the roof of the embassy is conveniently located only 150 metres away form Britain’s. So, while the US cooled off its spying equipment, Britain’s own tapping tent remained in prime location.


Below you will find Duncan's Independent stories and coverage.


Other UK embassies and consulates

VIENNA - The British embassy in Vienna is noteworthy for its rooftop shed, which is almost identical to those found on the rooftops of many US embassies.




Revealed: Britain's 'secret listening post in the heart of Berlin'

INDEPENDENT -Claims that GCHQ has maintained spying operations even after US pulled out.  The front page report for the Independent resulted in the British ambassador being summoned to the German foreign ministry.

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Exclusive: RAF Croughton base 'sent secrets from Merkel’s phone straight to the CIA'

INDEPENDENT - Northamptonshire communications hub plays key role in relaying embassy based spying. Data from the global network of US embassy spy posts implicated in the eavesdropping on Angela Merkel’s mobile phone is funnelled back to Washington through a secret hub in Northamptonshire.

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Germany calls in Britain's ambassador to demand explanation over 'secret Berlin listening post'

INDEPENDENT - Foreign minister summons ambassador to provide explanation after report in The Independent exposes electronic spying operartion on the rooftop of the British embassy in Berlin.

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Senior German politician wants inquiry into UK spying at secret Berlin listening post

INDEPENDENT - A senior German politician has called for formal investigations by the country’s police and intelligence agencies into allegations that Britain is operating a secret listening post from its Berlin embassy.

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Germany calls in British ambassador over spy claims

The Berlin flag flies next to a white structure that, according to media reports, contains sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment and stands on top of the British embassy BBC - The British ambassador in Berlin has been called in to Germany's foreign ministry to respond to spying allegations.

Germany calls in British ambassador over Berlin spying claim

TELEGRAPH -Germany's foreign ministry calls in the British ambassador to explain reports that the UK was operating a covert spying station from its Berlin embassy.