Der Speigel magazine has revealed German intelligence operated one of NSA’s spying programs. Chancellor Angela Merkel had denied any previous knowledge of NSA’s tactics, adding that she first learned about them through the media.
Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, along with the domestic intelligence agency the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), used American National Security Agency’s (NSA) XKeyScore program, according to Spiegel which claims to have seen the US intelligence service’s secret documents.
The BfV office had the XKeyScore program, which was installed to “expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT (counterterrorism) targets.” And the BND office was tasked with showing the BfV how to operate the program, the secret documents said.
An internal NSA presentation from 2008 revealed that XKeyScore is able to expose any terms a person under surveillance has typed into a search engine and receive a “full intake” of all unfiltered data over a period of several days, including content of communications.
The program uses metadata – information about data connections – to access the targeted information.
The documents also disclosed that up to 500 million German data connections were accessed monthly by the NSA. The majority of the connections were collected through the XKeyScore program.
Documents also reveal cooperation between the NSA and Germany recently strengthened, referencing BND head Gerhard Schindler’s “eagerness and desire”.
“The BND has been working to influence the German government to relax interpretation of the privacy laws to provide greater opportunities of intelligence sharing,” Spiegel quotes the NSA as saying in January. And in 2012 Germany showed a “willingness to take risks and to pursue new opportunities for cooperation with the US.”
The document further stated that BND was NSA’s “most prolific partner” in information gathering in Afghanistan.
The magazine reports that the relationship between the two is close “on a personal level” and at the end of April, just before Edward Snowden’s first revelations about NSA spying programs, a 12-member high-level BND delegation was invited to the NSA to meet specialists on the subject of “data acquisition.”
The BND, BfV and the NSA have refused to comment about their connection.
In the meantime, Chancellor Merkel spoke out strongly in favor of an international agreement to protect electronic data.
“We should be able, in the 21st century, to sign global agreements,” Merkel told the weekly Welt am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday. “If digital communication raises new questions worldwide, then we should take up the challenge. Germany is working for that.”
Angela Merkel is facing re-election on September 22 and has received pressure from critics to admit what she knew about the US online surveillance.