Tuesday

21st Sep 2021

Spy scandal puts pressure on Merkel

  • What did the chancellor know about German intelligence's phone-tapping on European countries and companies? (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

German chancellor Angela Merkel is under growing pressure, including from her own coalition, over revelations of spying on European countries and companies by the German intelligence service, the BND, for the US National security agency (NSA).

With new details published almost every day by the German press, Merkel defended the BND-NSA co-operation on Monday (4 May), saying it is necessary to protect German people.

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"[The BND’s] ability to carry out its duties in the face of international terrorism threats is done in co-operation with other intelligence agencies, and that includes, first and foremost, the NSA," she said in the German parliament.

"What has to be improved must be improved," she added.

She also said that friendly nations should not spy on each other.


Merkel said similar things in 2013 when it was revealed that the NSA had listened to her mobile phone. But now, it's her own intelligence service which is being accused of spying on friendly nations.



It was revealed last week that the BND wiretapped officials at the French presidency and Foreign affairs ministry, as well as ministries in Austria and the European Commission. It is unclear which other European countries where spied on.

European companies like the defense group EADS and Eurocopter were also targets.

The BND worked from its Bad Aibling espionage station in Bavaria, a former US station where the NSA kept a secret office.

Der Spiegel magazine revealed on Sunday that the NSA spied on European countries and companies at least until 2013.

That year, the magazine also reports, the BND examined the search terms provided by the NSA to conduct tapping. It found and deleted 12,000 active selectors (IP and email addresses or phone numbers) aimed at European officials and businesses.

"It clearly violated the provisions of the 2002 Memorandum of Agreement," between Germany ad the US on anti-terrorist co-operation, writes Der Spiegel.

A preliminary inquiry was launched last week by Germany’s state attorney, Harald Rang, who will be heard on Wednesday by the parliamentary intelligence committee.

Also on Wednesday, interior minister Thomas de Maiziere will questioned by MEPs. 


De Maiziere was Merkel’s chief of staff from 2005-2009. He said he knew nothing of the BND-NSA co-operation, but, according to the investigation, he received notes form the BND as early as 2008.

The committee opened an inquiry in 2014 to investigate NSA spying on Germany and discovered that the BND was also illegally co-operating with the NSA.

The focus is now on the federal government and on Merkel, as to whether she was aware of these activities.

The head of the parliamentary group of the radical party The Left, Gregor Gysi, demanded that Merkel herself was questioned by MPs.


"She must testify - under oath, by the way," he said on ARD TV channel.

Even Merkel’s main coalition partner, the social-democratic SPD, is starting to question her involvement.

Vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel asked Monday for a "thorough inquiry" about BND spying, adding that the scandal could be "a very severe shock" to the nation’s political system.

The SPD’s deputy chairman was more aggressive.

"For the chancellor, the game of keeping information away and saying ‘I have nothing to do with that’ doesn’t work anymore," Ralf Stegner told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"Anglela Merkel must explain now," he added. 

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