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Germany collaborating with NSA

July 21, 2013

Intelligence agencies in Germany and the US have been collaborating, according to a new report from a German magazine. The German government has been using bulk data collected by the National Security Agency.

A photo of an eye montioring numbers on what appears to be a computer screen. (Picture via imago/INSADCO)
Image: imago/INSADCO

Germany's foreign and domestic intelligence services have been using a spying program set up by the NSA, "Der Spiegel" magazine reported on Saturday.

According to documents seen by "Der Spiegel," Germany's federal domestic intelligence service - the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) - was given a program called XKeyScore that was intended to "expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT (Counter Terrorism) targets." The BfV was reportedly instructed on how to use the program by Germany's federal foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

The report says that a 2008 internal NSA presentation calls the program a productive spying tool. Using metadata – detailed information about when and where data connections were made – the XKeyScore can go back and see what internet terms a particular person has used in a search engine. The system can also receive a "full take" of communications data stored over the last several days, which also partially includes communications content.

Of the up to 500 million data connections from Germany accessed each month by the NSA, a large chunk is collected by XKeyScore, including 180 million in December 2012.

The heads of the BfV and BND, Hans-Georg Maassen and Gerhard Schindler, rejected the idea that their agencies collect large swaths of secret intelligence data from the NSA. Maassen told the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper that his office was testing software provided by the NSA but were not currently using them in their work.

Schindler told the newspaper that there was no "monthly passing of millions of data from Germany to the NSA" through his agency.

Opposition backlash

The Chairman of Germany's Left Party, Bernd Riexinger, called for the suspensions of Maassen and Schindler "until [there is] a complete clarification of the allegations."

The report suggests the "systematic unhinging of fundamental rights" on the part of Germany's spy agencies, according to Riexinger, who added that he would request a parliamentary inquiry at the next session.

Data protection has dominated electioneering ahead of Germany's September federal vote following recent revelations made by former NSA subcontractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden that exposed the mass surveillance by the NSA of the telephone and Internet activities of European citizens.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the German government only found out about the NSA's sweeping surveillance programs through the media, but the "Der Spiegel" report suggests otherwise.

Along with the Left party, the main opposition Social Democrats and Greens have criticized Merkel and her conservative government for how they've handled the NSA controversy. Recent opinion polls have indicated there is widespread public displeasure over the spying programs.

dr/jm (AFP, dpa)