A German newspaper reported Sunday that the NSA's campaign of industrial espionage against European companies could be more wide ranging than first reported.
While initial reports only talked of stealing plans from Airbus and passing them to U.S rival Boeing, it has now emerged that the U.S intelligence agency asked its German partner service BND to spy on engineering and technology giant Siemens, .
The latest report on the widening spying scandal is that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) suspected Siemens of supplying communications technology Russian secret service.
The source of the latest leak is an unnamed U.S. intelligence service member, which could indicate the NSA is trying to front-run the news by preemptively offering a justification for its actions.
Industrial espionage is something the U.S. government has waged a concerted battle over, routinely taking China and Russia to task for the activity. Revelations the U.S. itself conducts such activities would weaken its moral position on the matter, which could explain why the latest leaks have occurred.
A Siemens spokesman said the company was "not aware of any facts in the company's area of responsibility", a confusing statement seeming to imply it did not, in fact, supply Russian secret service.
The "BND affair", as it has been dubbed in Germany, refers to the German service spying on Airbus Group, the French government and the European Commission on behalf of the NSA. The scandal has rattled Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and angered Germany's European partners.
While straining Merkel's ruling left-right coalition, her government has so far declined demands by a parliamentary oversight panel to release a list of the NSA's requested search terms or "selectors" for IP and email addresses and mobile phone numbers.
The United States, predictably, has already rejected the request.
Fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who is currently hiding from the NSA in Russia, told Germany's Spiegel that the latest reports show that "massive surveillance is a reality."
"Industrial espionage is practiced and the intelligence services are working beyond the control of the representatives of the people and of justice," said Snowden.