Germany's Merkel rejects parallel between NSA activities and Stasi; top minister to visit US

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected any comparison between U.S. surveillance activities and pervasive snooping by communist East Germany's secret police, the Stasi.

Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, was asked in an interview published by the weekly Die Zeit whether alleged bugging by the National Security Agency was reminiscent of the Stasi. She replied: "For me, there is absolutely no comparison" between the Stasi and "the work of intelligence agencies in democratic states."

She said such parallels trivialize the Stasi's activities and said intelligence work in democratic countries is essential to security.

Merkel has called for the U.S. to clear up the recent allegations. Her top security official, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, is traveling to Washington on Thursday for meetings with Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials.