Thomas de Maizière has said that Germany waived an extension of its intelligence cooperation with the US in 2008. Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany is "in consultation" with the US over alleged disclosure of secrets.
Germany's embattled interior minister told a committee that the government waived an extension of its "problematic" cooperation with the US in 2008, when Christian Democrat (CDU) Thomas De Maizière served as chancellery chief. De Maizière, the defense minister from 2011 to 2013, told the Bundestag committee that the collaboration desired by the United States would not have met with the "security measures" then in place in Germany and he had not received any details of the effort at the time.
According to new revelations, Germany's BND intelligence agency helped the US spy on European politicians and companies. The claims trace links between the BND and National Security Agency (NSA) to 2002.
Austria has lodged a legal complaint against the BND. Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner demanded clarification: "Today we have filed a legal complaint with the prosecutor's office against an unknown entity due to secret intelligence services to Austria's disadvantage."
And the French aviation giant Airbus has announced that it would "file a criminal complaint."
'Need for clarification'
Angela Merkel's coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), have upped the pressure on the chancellor. Deputy Chairman Ralf Stegner called on Merkel to "enlighten" her colleagues.
Opposition lawmakers want consequences if the BND assisted the NSA. Parliamentarians called for a list of terms the NSA used in spying. In a radio interview broadcast Tuesday, Merkel said the government would not, for the moment, provide a list of "selectors" - IP addresses, search terms, names and phone numbers - it had tracked for the NSA.
Merkel said the government would provide the Bundestag committee with "many other documents." She added: "We have a need for clarification." Merkel has repeatedly defended the work of the BND.
A poll released Wednesday found that 62 percent of respondents - including 77 percent of SPD members - believe the affair has damaged Merkel's credibility. Eighteen percent believe it hasn't.
Two years ago, data released by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, revealed that the agency had even spied on Merkel's telephone use. On Tuesday afternoon, #BNDGate became a top-trending word on German Twitter.
mkg/bw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)