Sunday

21st Oct 2018

Germany defends intelligence co-operation with US

  • Anti-snooping protest in Berlin (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The German intelligence service (BND) has been co-operating "for decades" with the US, but only within legal boundaries, a German government spokesman said on Monday (8 July).

In an interview published on Sunday in Der Spiegel, fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden said the BND is "in bed" with the National Security Agency (NSA), supplying it with information as part of a secret surveillance programme tapping the Internet and phone data of US and European citizens.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert did not deny there is co-operation between the two services, but he said that the BND abides by German law.

"The BND has been co-operating for decades with partner agencies, including the NSA. We can only protect our citizens if we co-operate. This co-operation is following rules and laws very strictly and is subject to parliamentary control," he said.

He struck a more conciliatory tone compared to a week ago, when he spoke of "unacceptable" spying methods reminiscent of the "Cold War."

He said that after a phone conversation between Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama, the two countries are now in "permanent contact" about the affair and decided to set up working groups between experts both on bilateral and EU-US level to clarify these "complex matters."

However, neither the German justice minister nor the interior minister have so far received any replies to questionnaires addressed to their US counterparts.

Justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger from the Liberal Party, Merkel's junior coalition partner, has been vocal in opposing any further trade talks between the EU and the US "as long as they are spying our economy."

Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich will travel to Washington at the end of this week to discuss the matter with his American counterparts.

Seibert noted that"further questions" arising from the Snowden interview will be addressed within the relevant Bundestag committee, which already heard from the BND chief last week.

The meetings of the committee take place behind closed doors, however.

The members of this committee are also forbidden from saying anything about the content of the talks.

"Of course we still demand explanations. Us Liberals don't only expect the interior minister to deliver clear and comprehensive replies after his trip to Washington, but the government has to explain the extent of the cooperation between the BND and the NSA," Liberal MP Gisela Piltz told this website.

A member of the BND control committee, Piltz said she wants to improve the parliamentary scrutiny of this body, so that collaborators of the intelligence services who dare to speak up - like Snowden - are better protected.

Other Liberal politicians in Germany have demanded for Snowden to be granted asylum - but not the Liberal foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, who points out that the US is a democracy and the justice system there is independent, which gives no grounds for political asylum.

An opinion poll carried out by Emnid end of June showed that 50 percent of Germans consider Snowden to be a hero and 35 percent would hide him in their homes.

Snowden is still stuck in a Moscow airport and has reportedly received asylum offers from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

Merkel in tough spot over US spy scandal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her stance on the US spying affair, saying Washington needs more time to give all the answers and that she cannot force the US to change its laws.

Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times

Covering two-third of the world's economic output and governing more than half of the world's population, the Europe and Asian leaders' summit in Brussels on Friday tests potentials for outlining a post-Trump world order.

EU looks at Morocco and Tunisia to offload migrants

EU member states and the European Commission are pressing ahead with plans to possibly use Morocco and Tunisia as countries to offload asylum seekers and migrants - part of larger bid to create a so-called "safe third country" list.

News in Brief

  1. Germany leads EU criticism of Saudi Arabia
  2. Huge pro-EU march takes place in London
  3. Macedonia MPs back name deal in initial vote
  4. EU to open trade talks with US on beef
  5. EU court orders Poland to suspend firing judges
  6. Japan to focus on circular economy at G20
  7. Italian budget 'significant deviation' from rules, says EU
  8. Podemos initiates debate on legalising marijuana in Spain

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  2. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  3. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  4. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  5. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud
  6. Polish left a glimmer of hope in fight against illiberal democracy
  7. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  8. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us