LONDON — The United States monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders according to classified documents leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, Britain's Guardian newspaper said on Thursday.
Phone numbers were passed on to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) by an official in another government department, according to the documents, the Guardian said on its website.
It added that staff in the White House, State Department and the Pentagon were urged to share the contact details of foreign politicians.
Reacting to the report, a White House spokeswoman said, "We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."
Yves Herman / Reuters
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a European Union leaders summit in Brussels on Oct. 24. German and French accusations that the United States has run spying operations in their countries, including possibly bugging Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone, are likely to dominate a meeting of EU leaders starting on Thursday. The two-day Brussels summit, called to tackle a range of social and economic issues, will now be overshadowed by debate on how to respond to the alleged espionage by Washington against two of its closest European Union allies.
The revelations come a day after Germany demanded answers from Washington over allegations Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone was bugged, the worst spat between the two countries in a decade.
The White House did not deny the bugging, saying only it would not happen in future.
"In one recent case, a U.S. official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders," reads an excerpt from a confidential memo dated October 2006 which was quoted by the Guardian.
The identities of the politicians in question were not revealed.
The revelations in the center-left Guardian suggested that the bugging of world leaders could be more widespread than originally thought, with the issue set to overshadow an EU summit in Brussels.
Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington
NSA via Reuters file
An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Md.
First published October 24 2013, 4:18 PM