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New Probe Reveals NSA Targeted Entire Staffs of EU Governments

German investigation reveals long arm of American spy operations across Europe

The BND's Bad Aibling facility. (Photo: DPA)

A German government-sanctioned special investigation has exposed a "clear breach" of intelligence-sharing agreements—including illegal surveillance of European authorities—between the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its German counterpart, known as the BND.

The news magazine Der Spiegel reported (German) the development on Friday, after having seen a copy of the 300-page report from former federal judge Kurt Graulich, who was appointed by Chancellor Angela Merkel in July to investigate the NSA's activities within Germany. Graulich is due to formally submit the report next week to the German Parliament.

In examining a list of so-called "selectors" or "catchwords" given to the BND by the NSA, Graulich uncovered a "surprisingly large number" of European targets said to have been disallowed by Germany's BND on the grounds that they violated European or German interests. The list of 39,000 keywords—many of them email addresses and phone numbers—included government institutions in two-thirds of all EU member states and commercial enterprises, according to a translation of Der Spiegel's reporting.

According to Sputnik International:

Nearly 70 percent of the screened selectors concerned the authorities of EU countries, says the report.

"Whole staffs of European governments were the target of American spying. Nearly 16 percent of the selectors were related to telecommunications subscribers in Germany, which are protected by the Basic Law against spying through their own intelligence services," [Der Spiegel] reported.

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Der Spiegel writes that Graulich "did not specify" whether the catchwords were related to "economic espionage or reconnaissance for military purposes."

However, "the cooperation between NSA and BND was neither transparent nor...controlled for the German side," he clearly indicated.

The news comes one day after the European Parliament passed a resolution urging its nations to afford NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden protection. Snowden's 2013 leaks helped uncover the extent of the NSA's cooperation with European nations, including Germany.

The NSA reportedly did not respond to Graulich's requests for explanation.

Earlier this month, a group of activists flew a drone over a key NSA complex in Germany, dropping leaflets encouraging the intelligence workers inside to quit in protest over invasive surveillance.

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