The panel investigating possible NSA wrongdoing in connection with German authorities will not have access to the NSA's so-called "selectors" list. An appeal led by opposition politicians failed at Germany's top court.
The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe on Tuesday delivered a verdict, saying the government in Berlin did not need to transfer its secret list of spy targets to the commission investigating the US' spy agency NSA's activities in Germany.
The government's need to keep certain data confidential outweighed the NSA commission's desire for more details on the issue in this case, judges said in an October decision that was made public on Tuesday.
The verdict also said that releasing the "selectors" list without approval from the United States could endanger the functioning of intelligence agencies and jeopardize Germany's effectiveness in matters of national security.
Green party politician Konstantin von Notz, who is on the parliamentary committee investigating NSA issues, expressed disappointment at Tuesday's verdict. "Large portions of the illegal BND practices conducted over years will remain in the dark," he said in Berlin, adding that because of the way the systems worked, further scandals and rights violations were "pre-programmed."
Verdict in the interest of national security
Tuesday's ruling was a response to a complaint by the Greens and left-wing party "Die Linke" members as well as the leaders of the NSA fact-finding commission, lodged after the German government denied them access to the list.
The "selectors" list details search criteria like telephone numbers, email addresses and IP addresses of people, including European politicians and heads of corporations, who were monitored by the NSA, with the help of Germany's foreign espionage agency, the BND. Targets also included many European political leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The scandal dates back to the intelligence leaks mainly attributable to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, now living in self-imposed exile in Russia.
Instead of handing over the list to the commission, the ruling coalition in Berlin appointed an administrative judge, Kurt Graulich, as a "person of trust." Graulich analyzed the list and then briefed the investigative commission on its contents, but judges at the constitutional court said this did not give the body any right to demand exact information.
The judges applauded the German government for passing on some information in this way. In justifiying its ruling, it said that the selectors list was "more of a general political interest," rather than being central to the welfare of the state or the government's capacity to function, criteria that might have prompted a different decision.