Germany Tightens The Reins On Spy Service

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The US National Security Agency (NSA) overstepped an intelligence-sharing agreement with Germany by requesting German technicians to snoop on allied governments‘ emails, a top-level inquiry has concluded. “The inclusion of the email addresses of entire office staffs of European government is an obviously excessive reach that was not covered by the memorandum of understanding,” the report said, referring to an agreement between the NSA and the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND – The German Federal Intelligence Service.

The report is reviewing a decade of intelligence cooperation until a crackdown in 2013 following disclosures by US whistleblower Edward Snowden that led to the discovery that a non-encrypted cellphone used by Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s was being monitored.

Following the report,  Germany announced new measures to curb the activities of its foreign intelligence agency. Christiane Wirtz, a spokeswoman for Merkel, said government supervision of the intelligence agency would be tightened. The steps came after a special investigator appointed by the German government handed over his final report into claims that the BND spied on its European allies for the NSA. The investigator, Judge Kurt Graulich, was appointed to investigate how the BND intercepted data streams from satellite links, fishing out messages by spotting email addresses, telephone numbers and words of interest.

Because the entire traffic over the world‘s satellites is too much to listen in to, spies routinely used selector software to pick out the interesting bits. Officials have suggested the NSA manipulated the BND into snagging allies‘ messages of interest to Washington. Graulich said “a surprisingly large number” of NSA requests breached the constitutional protections of Germany‘s own citizens, but the most serious concern was the spying on other European nations.

The issue of data fishing is politically sensitive in Germany, where monitoring must be expressly authorized by law and there is deep public distaste for mass monitoring of communications unless it is authorized by court warrant.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany where state spying on citizens was rampant, declared repeatedly that “spying among friends is not on” while acknowledging Germany’s reliance on the US in security matters.

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