US agents arrested suspects in transit at German airports and probed asylum seekers for leads ahead of drone strikes in other nations, according to a joint report compliled by German NDR public broadcaster and the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
Their special website [in German] and previews of NDR's next "Panorama" program allege that torture and kidnappings were organized on German territory and that from US installations in Germany drone strikes were organized "all over the world."
"Germany is long a component of the American security architecture," said Panorama. German authorities "often assist," said the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), adding that Germany had long become a "hub" for America's "war on terror."
The researchers' claims center on the assumption that such operations on German territory are subject to German law, including rules on strict data privacy and parliament's supervision of the military.
In June while visiting Berlin, US President Barack Obama reassured Germans that the US military was not using bases in Germany as a starting point for drone attacks on African locations such as Somalia.
NDR and SZ said the investigative travel by their joint 20-member team led them through all of Europe, to Africa, to the US and through the Internet.
The head of investigative research at the Munich-based Süddeutsche, Hans Leyendecker, said the team's probe had taken 2 years.
The team's claims follow headlines that the US had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, that Britain had operated a listening post in Berlin, and a German parliamentarian's recent visit to the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden in Moscow.
CIA oversight from Frankfurt
Panorama said a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) facility in Frankfurt oversaw that construction of "secret torture jails" in other nations.
And, in one case, said Panorama, "an American intelligence contract firm, which works for US NSA [National Security Agency] and planned kidnapping flights for the CIA, still receives contracts worth millions from the German government."
Panorama said the "German assistance in the 'anti-terror' war" stemmed in part from funding though German "taxes."
US military bases at Ramstein and Stuttgart in southwestern Germany assisted in guiding American drones used to target suspected terrorists in Africa and the Middle East, but also killed civilians, it added.
The US had a drone training base at Grafenwöhr in the middle of Bavaria equipped with unmanned "Shadow" reconnaisance aircraft, according to the investigative team's website.
While Germany debated whether to acquire drones, "already 50" drones involved in US training "are flying over the Federal Republic of Germany - almost unnoticed by the public," it said.
The journalistic project, including the release of a book by SZ author Christian Fuchs and NDR journalist John Goetz this Friday, will be followed by a feature evening on Germany's joint ARD public broadcasting network, which includes NDR, on November 28.
Goetz said he had interviewed retired US intelligence operatives and learned that the US Secret Service and Homeland Security Department had "taken into custody suspects at German airports."
"Retired US-American security people are very chatty," Goetz added.
Referring to drone operations, Goetz said: "The decision, when and [who] will be executed takes place in Stuttgart."
Database entries point to Germany
The SZ said the investigative team's scrutiny of the official US Federal Procurement Data System had revealed 257,910 entries related to Germany.
One online search string "0066 MI" pointed to the United States' 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, located in the "NSA bases in Wiesbaden and Darmstadt-Griesheim," said SZ, adding they were the "best-guarded" buildings in Germany.
SZ said the "shear mass of information" created the impression that the United States regarded Germany as a whole as "US base Germany"
The special webside said in total the German government had granted "special permits" to 207 American firms allowing them to undertake "sensitive tasks" on German territory on behalf of the US goverment.
ipj/hc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)