Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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

New Probe Reveals NSA Targeted Entire Staffs of EU Governments

German investigation reveals long arm of American spy operations across Europe

Deirdre Fulton

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.

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.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

ACLU Demands 'Truly Systemic Overhaul' of US Civilian Harm Policies

"While a serious Defense Department focus on civilian harm is long overdue and welcome, it's unclear that this directive will be enough," says director of the legal group's National Security Project.

Jessica Corbett ·


'This Is Not Over': Alaska Supreme Court Rejects Youth Climate Case

"With the state continuing to undermine their health, safety, and futures," said the plaintiffs' lead counsel, "we will evaluate our next steps and will continue to fight for climate justice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Analysis Finds 'Staggering' Rise in Voter Suppression After GOP Restrictions in Georgia

"This is why we are fighting this new law in court," said one voting rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Egregious': Pennsylvania Court Strikes Down Mail-In Voting Law

The ruling was stayed pending an appeal to the state's Supreme Court and as one voting advocate put it: "The fight's not over yet, folks."

Julia Conley ·


Big Win for Open Internet as Court Upholds California Net Neutrality Law

One legal advocate called the Ninth Circuit's opinion "a great decision and a major victory for internet users in California and nationwide."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo