US snoopers were 'in bed' with German intelligence
America's National Security Agency works so closely with its European counterparts, it is likely that some EU leaders knew about its snooping operations.
Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview made in May, but published on Sunday (7 July), that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, is “in bed” with the NSA.
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He said they co-operate in such a way as to “insulate their political leaders from the backlash” should the details of their operations made public.
The NSA, he noted, has a Foreign Affairs Directorate, whose task is to form and shape the co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies of allied countries.
He added the US agency also works with other Western equivalents in on a “no questions asked” basis.
“Other agencies don't ask us where we got the information from and we don't ask them. That way they can protect their top politicians from the backlash in case it emerges how massively people's privacy is abused worldwide," he said.
Documents released by Snowden to Der Spiegel revealed the NSA monitored up to 60 million daily telephone calls and around 10 million Internet data sets in Germany.
Germany was the most snooped on European state by the Americans.
The disclosure caused public uproar in a country where government surveillance is a sensitive issue due to abuses by the East German secret police, the Stasi, in Communist times.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has described the US-led spying charges as “Cold War” tactics and asked for explanations from US president Barack Obama.
She said the two partners must establish trust in the lead up to the US-EU free trade negotiations that start Monday.
But the fresh disclosures by Der Spiegel have prompted opposition leaders to ask how much she knew and to what extent her reaction is sincere.
The German magazine also reports the scope of the BND’s partnership with the NSA is more widespread than previously thought.
It notes that the BND monitors signals of foreign data streams that pass through Germany with analysis tools provided by the NSA.
BND head Gerhard Schindler confirmed the working relationship during a meeting with members of the German parliament's control committee for intelligence issues.
The European Commission, for its part, is setting up working groups with the Americans to discuss the snooping charges.
But some member states, like the United Kingdom and Sweden, say the EU has no competence over national security issues and can only discuss how the programmes affect the privacy rights of EU citizens.