Highlighting Double-Standard, Probe Shows Germany Spied on EU Neighbors for NSA

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Highlighting Double-Standard, Probe Shows Germany Spied on EU Neighbors for NSA

NSA had pact with German spy agency and supplied search terms for phone and email monitoring on weekly basis, according to investigation

French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in 2013. Germany was revealed this week to have spied on France and EU allies for the NSA for years. (Photo: President of the European Council/flickr/cc)

Though German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised loud objections when it was revealed that the NSA had been monitoring her private communications, a new inquiry by the German parliament revealed last week that the spy agency under Merkel's command conducted secret operations against its EU neighbors on behalf of the US government.

Germany's national intelligence agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), helped the NSA carry out "political espionage" on "top officials at the French Foreign Ministry, the Elysee Palace, and European Commission," according to reports. The BND used its largest eavesdropping facility in Bavaria to monitor email and telephone communications at those institutions, as well as European defense and aerospace firms, under a 2002 pact with the NSA.

Those revelations prompted allegations by critics and national media of a cover-up that implicated all levels of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration. Merkel has been outspoken against the NSA's widespread and invasive surveillance operations after documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed that the agency had monitored the Chancellor's phone, among other transgressions.

"You don't spy on your friends," Merkel said at the time.

The new revelations have led to severe criticism of German officials, particularly Thomas de Maizière, German Interior Minister and former chief of staff for Merkel's office, which gave him authority over the BND. The Guardian writes:

Thomas de Maizière... is in the firing line for allegedly lying about or covering up the German collaboration with the Americans. The minister has denied the allegations robustly and promised to answer before the parliamentary inquiry “the sooner the better”.

.... German media reports are asserting that if De Maizière knew what was going on he has covered it up, and that if he did not know he was failing in his job while the BND ranged out of political control.

According to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the NSA supplied the BND with search terms on a weekly basis, totaling 690,000 phone numbers and 7.8 million IP addresses up until 2013.

The Chancellory knew about the pact as early as 2010, the inquiry found.

"There is likely to be considerable political fallout from the latest news," including the possible resignation of BND chief Gerhard Schindler, reports Ars Technica. "News that the BND has been actively helping the NSA to spy on European companies and politicians will also deepen the public's already considerable anger at [U.S.] surveillance of Germans, first revealed by Snowden's leaks."

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