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Berlin spied on France for the NSA, German media say

The headquarters of Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND, are still under construction in Berlin (April 27)
The headquarters of Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND, are still under construction in Berlin (April 27) Jörg Carstensen/DPA/AFP

German intelligence helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) monitor the French presidential palace and foreign ministry officials as well as members of the European Commission, Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday.

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Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency helped the NSA perform "political espionage" by watching "top officials at the French foreign ministry, the Elysée Palace and the European Commission", the German paper will report in an article to be published in its Thursday edition.

"The heart [of the problem] is political espionage of European neighbours and institutions of the European Union," the Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote, citing a source with knowledge of BND procedures.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government – which has long complained of being a target of snooping by the US – is now facing a series of embarrassing reports that German spies themselves acted on behalf of the NSA to monitor allies like France as well as German companies.

Economic espionage

Citing intelligence agency documents, the Bild daily reported on Monday that Merkel’s office was informed in 2008 – during Merkel's first term – of German involvement in US economic espionage.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung also reported that spying on companies took place in isolated cases as the United States searched for "information on illegal exports".

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who served as chief of staff at the chancellor's office from 2005-2009, has offered to speak next week to a parliamentary committee looking into the NSA’s practices.

Merkel’s opposition has already accused the government of lying for saying in a written statement on April 14 that it knew nothing about economic espionage by the NSA.

"I reject categorically the assertion that the government has not told the truth," Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said Wednesday at a previously scheduled press conference.

The latest revelations follow reports last week in Der Spiegel’s online edition that BND officials indirectly helped the NSA to spy on European targets, including German interests, over more than 10 years. BND officials provided intelligence data in up to 40,000 instances in accordance with US requests, the report said.

One of the NSA’s targets was Franco-German aerospace company EADS, which renamed itself Airbus Group last year and is a competitor in some industries to US aerospace giant Boeing.

Der Spiegel said BND officials passed on Internet IP addresses as well as mobile phone numbers to the NSA. The transfer of information was first detected internally in 2008 but was not reported to the chancellor’s office in full until last month, it said.

Germany reacted with outrage at revelations in 2013 by US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden that the NSA was conducting massive sweeps of Internet and phone data, including within Germany.

The revelations, which included claims that the NSA tapped Merkel's personal mobile phone, strained ties between Washington and Berlin.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

 

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