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By Ian Traynor in Brussels,
By Ian Traynor in Brussels,
Embarrassment for Berlin after reports about inquiry into NSA surveillance say German spies monitored French president’s office and EU institutions
Germany has been spying and eavesdropping on its closest partners in the EU and passing the information to the US for more than a decade, a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin has found, triggering allegations of lying and coverups reaching to the very top of Angela Merkel’s administration.
There was outrage in Germany two years ago over the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden of US and British surveillance activities in Europe. The fresh disclosures are embarrassing for Berlin, which stands accused of hypocrisy in its protests about the US spying on its allies.
“You don’t spy on your friends,” said the chancellor when it was made known to her that her mobile phone was being monitored by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Since then, both sides have been embroiled in arguments about data privacy, with much talk among officials and diplomats of a collapse of German trust in the Americans.
But according to reports on a confidential Bundestag committee of inquiry into the NSA scandal, under a 2002 pact between German intelligence (BND) and theNSA, Berlin used its largest electronic eavesdropping facility in Bavaria to monitor email and telephone traffic at the Élysée Palace, the offices of the French president, and of key EU institutions in Brussels including the European commission.
Thomas de Maizière, the interior minister and a Merkel confidant, 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”.
The best-selling tabloid Bild depicted de Maiziere as Pinocchio this week and accused him of “lying with impunity”. From 2005-9 he served as Merkel’s chief of staff, the post in Berlin that exercises authority over the BND. He is said to have been told of the spying activities in 2008.
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 the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the public broadcasters WDR and NDR, citing information from the closed parliamentary inquiry, the BND’s biggest listening post at Bad Aibling in Bavaria “was abused for years for NSA spying on European states”.
“The core is the political spying on our European neighbours and EU institutions,” an unnamed source said to be familiar with the evidence told the Süddeutsche.
As well as the political intelligence activities, the NSA also got the BND to spy on European aerospace and defence firms, the reports allege. German and American individuals and companies were not monitored under the terms of the espionage pact.
The Bad Aibling complex of listening posts was an NSA facility for years. Under an agreement in 2002, it was handed over to the Germans in 2004, since when much of the information gleaned was routinely passed to the Americans.
According to the Süddeutsche, the Americans supplied search terms on a weekly basis to the Germans – totalling 690,000 phone numbers and 7.8m IP addresses up until 2013.