Germany was a willing and eager partner to the NSA's vast surveillance, German news magazine Der Spiegel has reported, countering claims by the German government that it was unaware of the NSA's spying programs.
The reporting by Spiegel is based on a "top secret" NSA document revealed to them by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
According to the document, Germany was the NSA's "most prolific partner" in Afghanistan.
Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, sought to cultivate a relationship with the NSA, meeting with the agency's secretive Special Source Operations, and, the magazine reports,
cooperation between Berlin and Washington in the area of digital surveillance and defense has intensified considerably during the tenure of Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to one document, the Germans are determined to "strengthen and expand bilateral cooperation."
And the head of the BND, Gerhard Schindler, showed an "eagerness and desire" for the partnership, while German officials showed a "willingness to take risks and to pursue new opportunities for cooperation with the US."
Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, is also tied to a cozy relationship with the NSA, the magazine reports. Both the BfV and BND were equipped with the NSA's spy program XKeyScore to “expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT [counter-terrorism] targets.”
XKeyScore, Spiegel reports,
doesn't just track call connection records, but can also capture the contents of communication, at least in part.
In addition, the system makes it possible to retroactively view which key words targeted individuals enter into Internet search engines and which locations they search for on Google Maps.
The program, for which there are several expansions known as plug-ins, apparently has even more capabilities. For instance, "user activity" can be monitored practically in real time and "anomalous events" traced in Internet traffic. If this is true, it means that XKeyscore makes almost total digital surveillance possible.
The hope for the NSA was that the cross-Atlantic cooperation "could benefit both Germany and the US."
At a press conference on Friday, where she faced a barrage of questions on the NSA surveillance, Merkel said, “Germany is not a nation of surveillance. Germany is a nation of freedom.”