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Germany dumps Verizon for Deutsche Telekom over NSA spying

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The German government has said it will cancel its contract with US telecoms provider Verizon, citing spying fears.

"The pressures on networks as well as the risks from highly-developed viruses or Trojans are rising," the country's Interior Ministry told Reuters on Thursday. "Furthermore, the ties revealed between foreign intelligence agencies and firms in the wake of the US National Security Agency (NSA) affair show that the German government needs a very high level of security for its critical networks."

The move comes following reports that US intelligence agencies have been monitoring German communications networks, even to the point of tapping the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In May, Germany said it didn't think it had enough evidence to pursue legal action over the Merkel affair, but that didn't stop German pols from condemning US activities based on reports in the magazine Der Spiegel, which cited documents leaked by Edward Snowden among its sources.

Merkel herself has lent her support to the idea of the European Union building new telecoms networks that would be more difficult for the US to spy on, something she has discussed with French President François Hollande.

Germans aren't alone in their outrage. Upon hearing about the Merkel affair, US senator John McCain (R-AZ) called for the resignation of then-NSA chief General Keith Alexander. That was largely for show, though; Alexander retired from military service in March, to be replaced by Navy Vice Admiral Michael Rogers.

German carrier Deutsche Telekom will reportedly pick up where Verizon leaves off after getting the boot, and Reuters notes that DT already has a contract with the German government for carrying its most sensitive phone calls and data.

In a statement, Verizon protested the German government's decision and said that there was nothing to fear from US spy agencies.

"Verizon Germany is a German company and we comply with German law," Verizon spokesman Detlef Eppig said. "The US government cannot compel us to produce our customers' data stored in data centres outside the US, and if it attempts to do so, we would challenge that attempt in a court." ®

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