Saturday

3rd Dec 2016

Germany most snooped EU country by US

  • Berlin train station: Germany is the only 'orange' EU country on the US map (Photo: svenwerk)

The US National Security Agency (NSA) snoops on all EU member states and on Germany the most, new data reveals.

A colour-coded map of secret surveillance activities by the NSA ranks countries according to how much they are surveilled - green for the least and red for the most watched.

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All EU member states have variant shades of green except for Germany, which is colour-coded orange.

The NSA tool, called Boundless Informant, is among the documents disclosed by 29-year-old Edward Snowden who has since sought refuge in Hong Kong.

Snowden, who has worked at the NSA for the past four years on a number of outside contracts, said some NSA analysts have blanket power to spy on anyone for any reason.

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wire-tap anyone … even if you are not doing anything wrong, you are being watched and recorded,” he told The Guardian newspaper.

Boundless Informant reveals that some 3 billion pieces of metadata intelligence was gathered over a 30-day period, says The Guardian. Metadata includes calls made, location of the phone, time of the call and duration.

The tool comes with an operational handbook and says it uses “big data technology to query SIGINT [signals intelligence] collection in the cloud to produce near real-time business intelligence describing the agency’s available SIGINT infrastructure and coverage.”

It notes that the tool is “hosted entirely on corporate services” and is designed to, without any human intervention, to graphically display collected data in map view, bar chart, or simple table.

The tool is able to create a “near real-time snapshot” of collection ability at any given moment.

“The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select the details about the collection against that country,” notes the handbook.

Boundless Informant, along with the revelation of the secret-Prism programme and the extent of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, has confirmed what a handful of EU privacy experts have long suspected.

The amended FISA grants the US government powers to collect foreign intelligence on information stored in US Cloud computing providers like Google or Amazon.

Caspar Bowden, a former chief privacy adviser to Microsoft, told this website in January that the amended FISA intentionally targets non-US persons who are engaged in any sort of activity that relates to the conduct of foreign affairs of the United States.

But US justice department spokesperson Dan Boyd said his country's data laws give high protection.

“We believe the US standards are at least as strong as those governing intelligence collection in European Union Member States,” Boyd told EUobserver in an email in January.

Boyd said the FISA Amendments Act is not used indiscriminately or for political purposes.

He said the law has a judicial branch oversight through the so-called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

“A careful and unbiased examination of US law demonstrates how strongly we carry out this commitment to protecting privacy,” said Boyd.

Meanwhile, the FISC found the NSA activities unconstitutional in a 2011 opinion whose details have never been fully disclosed.

The US justice department, in a rare public ruling on Friday (7 June), urged that the FISC opinion remain out of sight.

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