Der Spiegel magazine has revealed German intelligence operated one of NSA’s spying programs. Chancellor Angela Merkel had denied any previous knowledge of NSA’s tactics, adding that she first learned about them through the media.
Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, along with the domestic intelligence agency the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), used American National Security Agency’s (NSA) XKeyScore program, according to Spiegel which claims to have seen the US intelligence service’s secret documents.
The BfV office had the XKeyScore program, which was installed to “expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT (counterterrorism) targets.” And the BND office was tasked with showing the BfV how to operate the program, the secret documents said.
An internal NSA presentation from 2008 revealed that XKeyScore is able to expose any terms a person under surveillance has typed into a search engine and receive a “full intake” of all unfiltered data over a period of several days, including content of communications.
The program uses metadata – information about data connections – to access the targeted information.
The documents also disclosed that up to 500 million German data connections were accessed monthly by the NSA. The majority of the connections were collected through the XKeyScore program.
Documents also reveal cooperation between the NSA and Germany recently strengthened, referencing BND head Gerhard Schindler’s “eagerness and desire”.
“The BND has been working to influence the German government to relax interpretation of the privacy laws to provide greater opportunities of intelligence sharing,” Spiegel quotes the NSA as saying in January. And in 2012 Germany showed a “willingness to take risks and to pursue new opportunities for cooperation with the US.”
The document further stated that BND was NSA’s “most prolific partner” in information gathering in Afghanistan.
The magazine reports that the relationship between the two is close “on a personal level” and at the end of April, just before Edward Snowden’s first revelations about NSA spying programs, a 12-member high-level BND delegation was invited to the NSA to meet specialists on the subject of “data acquisition.”
The BND, BfV and the NSA have refused to comment about their connection.
In the meantime, Chancellor Merkel spoke out strongly in favor of an international agreement to protect electronic data.
“We should be able, in the 21st century, to sign global agreements,” Merkel told the weekly Welt am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday. “If digital communication raises new questions worldwide, then we should take up the challenge. Germany is working for that.”
Angela Merkel is facing re-election on September 22 and has received pressure from critics to admit what she knew about the US online surveillance.
It emerged recently that Germany happens to be the most-snooped-on EU country by the American National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA’s real-time online surveillance PRISM program allows US intelligence agencies to intercept virtually any communications over the internet, phone calls and makes possible direct access to files stored on the servers of major internet companies.In early July, US fugitive Edward Snowden accused Germany and the US of partnering in spy intelligence operations, revealing that cooperation between the countries is closer than German indignation would indicate.
Chancellor Merkel declared that she learnt about the US surveillance programs, such as the NSA’s PRISM spy program, “through the current reporting” in the media.
Yet, Angela Merkel in interview to Die Zeit weekly stressed that “America has been, and is, our most loyal ally over the decades,” but pointed out that Washington should clear up the situation with the US allegedly bugging the embassies of European countries and EU facilities, noting that “the Cold War is over.”
The German government subsequently summoned US Ambassador Philip Murphy to Berlin to explain the incendiary reports.
Elsa Rassbach, an anti-war activist with the organization Code Pink, told RT that Germany is caught in the middle when it comes to Washington’s choice of overseas military and intelligence bases.
“On the one hand, Germany is the most important military base in Europe for the US. They have the Central Command for Europe and the Central Command for Africa in Stuttgart, which report directly to the Pentagon as the main military commands for those areas,” she said, listing a number of other examples, including the Ramstein Air Force and intelligence base. “But on the other hand, as a result of German history, we have this great concern about maintaining international law. The Germans I believe came to feel that they had learned from what happened in World War II that this was very important. So there’s a contradiction, because the US is using these bases in Germany to violate international law.”