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Cable company helped NSA spy on Vienna for a decade, says Austrian MP

By Jennifer Baker in Brussels


An Austrian newspaper has published what it claims is evidence that Deutsche Telekom spied on Vienna for German spooks for the miserly sum of just €6,500 a year.

On Tuesday, Peter Pilz publicly accused Deutsche Telekom of listening in on telephone and internet lines from Vienna, Luxembourg, Prague, Moscow and Ankara and passing the information on to the German national intelligence agency, the BND.

The document, secured by Pilz and published by Kronen Zeitung (known locally as “the Krone”), dates from March 2004. In it, Deutsche Telekom undertakes to pass on information “originating outside the Federal Republic of Germany” to the BND.

Last month, it emerged that the BND was happily turning over the fruits of its labours – including selectors such as IP addresses, emails and mobile phone numbers – to the United States’ National Security Agency.

With the OSCE and Opec being based in Vienna and the UN having a major site there, it is likely this line of information was of particular interest to the Americans.

In addition to the BND-Deutsche Telekom contract, an email published by Pilz last week showed a Deutsche Telekom employee confirming that connections between Luxembourg, Prague, Moscow and Ankara were also linked to the network.

The mass surveillance, codenamed Operation Eikonal, allowed the BND to access Deutsche Telekom's fibre-optic cables at the DE-CIX internet exchange point in Frankfurt.

Pilz says the spying has been going on for at least 10 years and questions must be answered. He has called for a parliamentary inquiry into spying activities, which he says were "to the detriment of Austria".

Deutsche Telekom has denied any wrongdoing, saying it has acted within German national law in transferring the mass data to the BND.

“Like every other telecommunications network operator in Germany, we are also obligated to co-operate with the BND. This is set out in the Federal Intelligence Service Act. Within this co-operation, we adhere strictly to the statutory provisions. The contract, which expired in 2008, was the specific implementation of our obligation,” said a Deutsche Telekom spokesman in an emailed statement to El Reg.

“We cannot comment on any details of the BND investigation. We are also unaware of the specific objectives of the BND investigation. Deutsche Telekom has been advocating a no-spy agreement for some time. Mutual spying should not be acceptable, at least within the EU, but ideally also in agreement with the USA. Deutsche Telekom does not co-operate with foreign intelligence services. We had no knowledge of any potential collaboration between the BND and the NSA,” he added. ®

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