Germany was up in arms this weekend over fresh spying allegations that could harm the country’s thorny relationship with surveillance of its citizens. The revelations bring back Soviet era memories where secret police held dossiers on almost all citizens of note, including politicians and government officials.
Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine claimed on Saturday that German spy agency BND, the equivalent of the NSA, had intercepted data on German and EU citizens on behalf of the NSA.
According to the report, BND “affected communication of European corporations, [government] departments and agencies.”
As we covered earlier this weekend, the spying included theft of trade secrets from Airbus, which were then passed on to American rival Boeing.
It was further claimed that the data was only filtered to exclude German citizens only after it had been collected and that in each ‘wiretap’ the exclusion process had to be performed. The process itself was apparently lengthy, taking years to complete. In the meantime the spooks could use the German data as they wished and in fact passed it on their American counterparts.
Intercepted material included both metadata and “complete records of telephone calls and emails, audio and text files.”
The reports are confirmation that agencies like the NSA are tracking every single bit of information that American citizens put online.
Germany’s public prosecutor has responded to the accusations against the BND by promising a preliminary investigation into the matter.
The inquest will consider whether Germany’s foreign intelligence agency violated the country’s laws by allegedly aiding the U.S. government in spying on European officials and companies such as aerospace giant Airbus group, which has already threatened to sue the BND.
German politicians, unlike those in our country, were calling on Chancellor Angela Merkel to explain the alleged actions of her government’s spook agency.
She has publicly opposed “spying on friends” by labelling it “a no-go”, yet the latest revelations indicate she may be acting differently in secret.
Der Spiegel reports that the deal between the two agencies was first struck in 2002, meaning the data has been collected for almost 15 years.
The report highlights just how pervasive spying on citizens has become. In the United States our NSA now has a detailed file on every single American citizen, detailing their movements, spending patterns, relationships – essentially every detail of your life.
Its especially troubling because the spying is conducted on government, judicial and military officials who can easily be blackmailed into cooperating with the NSA. The spying poses a serious threat to democracy as it is conducted with no oversight and the information is so powerful it would not be hard to circumvent the democratic process if the it threatened the NSA’s agenda.
The ramifications of this are particularly salient to Germans who lived under such a spying system during the Cold War.