Early Thursday, a front-page article in the German daily newspaper, “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” reported that France had been the target of spying by the German intelligence agency BND on behalf of the NSA. This report, seeming very much in the spirit of Edward Snowden, also suggests that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in support of the surveillance program that spied on high-ranking French officials. However, questions related to the extent of the spying just recently arose after it was questioned whether the program was targeting Merkel herself.
The article, claiming that France and Germany have continued to be spied on by the NSA, focuses on issues of eavesdropping through such methods as wiretapping. Germany’s BND has a wiretapping facility in Bad Aibling just south of Munich similar to the one shown in the this image. It was from here that many believe the French Foreign Ministry was observed, the EU Commission, as well as the Elysée Palace. While this surveillance center is owned and operated by the Germans, it has been indicated that the United States and subsequently the NSA, were behind the spying of France.
Some have argued the assertion, that there is some great divide between German and US operations, can be misleading. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has played a major role in Germany. This role extends in to many different sectors including national security. So, while it may be easy to pinpoint instances when the NSA has inquired into furthering specific programs, it does appear these were joint operations that have been monitoring communications domestically as well as abroad. This is a big issue for the German public though who take a relatively strong stance on preserving rights to privacy.
On Wednesday, once Chancellor and now Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, denied allegations that Merkel’s government had been misleading the public about the NSA’s ability to selectively review BND data on France and Germany for their own purposes. The accusations suggested that the Left party has been allowing the NSA to spy on both “German and European firms to make sure it received U.S. counterterrorism information.” Some feel this type of behavior would have violated German privacy laws.
The paper’s article cites its source as an internal investigation when explaining the NSA was primarily seeking data on “illegal defense deals.” The paper also noted that de Maiziere was informed back in 2008 that the NSA was, at that time, seeking to expand its monitoring capabilities of France and Germany beyond what would have been mutually beneficial to both countries. Ronald Pofalla, de Maziere’s successor, appears to have received more information on the issue in 2010.
Reports of France being targeted by German and NSA spying programs are being seen in German newspapers. There is some question as to what extent the current German government was involved, but with the close cooperation between the U.S. and Germany in so many affairs, it may be difficult to determine who was benefitting more from the intelligence collected. It seems as though Merkel was unpleased to learn that she may have been a target herself of the surveillance, but this does not mean that the German people will not criticize her for the actions of her government.
By Joel Wickwire
Photo by alh1’s Flickr Page – Creativecommons Creative Commons Flickr License
Photo by European People’s Party – Creativecommons Creative Commons Flickr License