Is the U.S. confirming it spied on Germany's chancellor?

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
FILE - The March 5, 2013 file photo shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel presenting a tap-proof mobile phone of Blackberry at a booth of Secusmart during the opening round tour of the world's largest computer expo CeBIT in Hannover. German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained to President Barack Obama on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013 after learning that U.S. intelligence may have targeted her mobile phone, and said that would be “a serious breach of trust” if confirmed, her government said. (AP Photo/dpa, Julian Stratenschulte)

Reimagine the old George Washington myth in which the future president, as a lad, is confronted with the famously hatcheted cherry tree and asked about his role in it. Now imagine that Washington’s answer had been, “I am not currently chopping down and will not chop down that cherry tree.”

You see the problem, right?

That’s essentially what’s happening in a deepening trans-Atlantic feud over alleged American spying on allied world leaders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained to President Barack Obama that U.S. intelligence tapped her mobile phone, with her government publicly calling the alleged behavior “a serious breach of trust” if true.

Obama responded on Wednesday with a telephone call to Merkel. And here’s the interesting part of the White House readout of that conversation:

“The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel,” the statement said.

“Is not”? “Will not”? They're a far cry from “has never.”