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Red-faced Germans halt NSA cooperation after Euro spying revealed

Stick another one on the 'Merkel's phone' list of snooping blunders

Angela Merkel. Pic: Christliches Medienmagazin
Achtung: German chancellor is ultimately responsible for the BND

Germany has reportedly pulled the plug on cooperation with the NSA following controversy over the role of its BND secret service assisting with US spying ops targeted at European politicians and firms, including Airbus.‬

BND's listening station in Bad Aibling has reportedly stopped passing on intelligence harvested from local internet surveillance to the NSA after the US signals intelligence agency declined to provide justification of each request for surveillance, a condition agreed between the BND and the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The same condition is already needed for either fax or phone surveillance, Reuters reports.

Last month it emerged that Germany's BND spy agency spied on European politicians and enterprises at the behest of the NSA for over a decade. The NSA sent its counterparts at the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst – Germany's Federal Intelligence Service) thousands of so-called selectors – IP addresses, emails, and mobile phone numbers – it wanted targeted for online surveillance. This input was fed into BND's surveillance systems with any intelligence gleaned evaluated at BND headquarters before getting passed back to the US.

The BND has been tapping the Internet Exchange Point DE-CIX in Frankfurt since at least 2009. The exchange of intelligence was carried out under the remit of a bilateral US-Germany agreement on anti-terrorism surveillance. But the targets included European politicians and European aerospace and defence firms, including the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and Eurocopter.

BND staffers apparently raised concerns about this internally but their quibbles were ignored by bosses until the Edward Snowden revelations began in 2013.

Worse yet, the BND assisted the NSA with spying on European ministers and enterprises without keeping the German parliament on side. So when the whole business became public last month it touched off a political firestorm amid accusations of economic espionage. Germany's relations with its neighbours - most particularly France and Austria - have been harmed.

The affair prompted a lawsuit from Airbus and a criminal complaint from Germany's neighbours Austria as well as placing a strain on Angela Merkel's governing coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD). Merkel has offered to testify to German MPs as part of wider attempts to defuse the growing row.

Surveillance is a sensitive issue for Germany because of the invidious history of spying by the Stasi secret police in Communist East Germany, where neighbours spied on each other, as well as the more distant historical echo of spying in the Nazi era by the Gestapo. ®

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