German government against overreaction in Telekom snooping scandal
Merkel's spokesman warns against an excessively strong reaction to the Deutsche Telekom snooping scandal as the company's officials discuss the affair with the Interior MinisterBerlin -- The German government urged caution on Monday in dealing with a widening snooping scandal at Deutsche Telekom (DT), Europe's largest telecommunications group, saying it was against any rapid changes to the law.
Any possible legislative changes had to be considered carefully, Chancellor Angela Merkel's official spokesman, Ulrich Wilhelm, said.
The government demanded a thorough probe of events at the former state monopoly, with those responsible brought to account and measures taken to prevent repetition, Wilhelm told journalists at the routine government briefing.
The government has called for the sector to regulate itself better.
Several legislators have called for a change in the law, noting that the German government remains a major stakeholder in the company.
Also in Berlin on Monday, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called in DT chief executive Rene Obermann and others for talks on the scandal.
Executives from several other telecommunications companies declined Schaeuble's invitation, insisting the problem was restricted to DT and not sector-wide.
Obermann has said he is personally doing his utmost to clear up allegations that the company monitored contacts between board members and journalists.
Obermann, who took over as chief executive at the end of 2006, insisted he was not personally involved.
The online edition of magazine Spiegel reported that DT's own internal probe had increased pressure on the former chairman of the supervisory board, Klaus Zumwinkel, and on Obermann's predecessor, Kai-Uwe Ricke.
Zumwinkel resigned his posts earlier this year after becoming enmeshed in a tax evasion scandal centred on bank accounts in Liechtenstein.
A parliamentary spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), Steffen Kampeter, was strongly critical of the corporate culture at certain top German companies.
He pointed to a sex-and-bribery scandal at Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker, that is still rumbling through the courts almost three years after its discovery.
Electrical engineering firm Siemens is in the middle of long-running scandal on the payment of bribes to secure contracts abroad, with financial authorities in several countries, including the United States, looking closely into the company's affairs.
Kampeter said the term "pigsty" was appropriate in talking about certain parts of the German corporate landscape, although he insisted this was not the case across the board.
DT has appointed a former senior judge with his own staff to probe the affair and recommend new privacy guidelines.
The company has said that its internal security department used billing records of hundreds of thousands of calls to trace the source of leaks to the press.
German prosecutors are investigating eight people on suspicion of breaching the privacy of phone calls.
The revelations have triggered an outcry in Germany and revived debate about whether phone companies should keep records of calls at all.
New German legislation requires the records to be kept in case they need to be seized by court order for crime inquiries.
Telekom, which operates T-Mobile wireless networks in several nations, said earlier that there was no evidence that calls were tapped.