BERLIN, Germany - President Barack Obama has ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to stop snooping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel but the attention has shifted to top officials in her government, according to a German newspaper.
Bild am Sonntag newspaper citing an unnamed NSA official in Germany said that those being bugged included Merkel's close confidant Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.
"We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we are no longer able to monitor the chancellor's communication directly," the newspaper quoted the NSA employee as saying.
The newspaper said the American spy agency had close to 300 employees in Germany to snoop on "320 key individuals".
Most of them, it said, are German "decision-makers involved in politics and business".
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is of particular interest to the US, the newspaper report said
"Because he is a close aide of Merkel, who seeks his advice on many issues and was rumored to be promoting his candidacy for the post of NATO secretary-general."
The German interior ministry refused to comment on the "allegations of unnamed individuals".
But the newspaper quoted security adviser to President Obama, Caitlin Hayden, as saying: "The US has made clear it gathers intelligence in exactly the same way as any other states."
Hayden said Washington did not spy on corporations in order to help US firms gain competitive advantage.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, last year lifted the lid on America's top secret surveillance programme.
Snowden, who is currently on a temporary asylum in Russia, exposed how the NSA was monitoring emails and phone calls of millions around the world, including top leaders and America's closest allies.
Documents about mass US surveillance in Germany, in particular of Merkel's mobile phone, shocked Berlin, sparking off a serious row between the two allies.
Following the German outrage, President Obama pledged that the US would not spy on Merkel.
Berlin has unsuccessfully been pushing for a no-spying deal with the US since then.
Germany is also advocating the creation of a European computer network which would allow communication traffic not to pass through US-based servers and thus avoid the NSA tapping.