'Prolific Partner': German Intelligence Used NSA Spy Program

The entrance to the headquarters of Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, near Munich: "A willingness to pursue new opportunities for cooperation" Zoom
REUTERS

The entrance to the headquarters of Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, near Munich: "A willingness to pursue new opportunities for cooperation"

Angela Merkel and her ministers claim they first learned about the US government's comprehensive spying programs from press reports. But SPIEGEL has learned that German intelligence services themselves use one of the NSA's most valuable tools.

Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, and its domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), used a spying program of the American National Security Agency (NSA). This is evident in secret documents from the US intelligence service that have been seen by SPIEGEL journalists. The documents show that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution was equipped with a program called XKeyScore intended to "expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT (counterterrorism) targets." The BND is tasked with instructing the domestic intelligence agency on how to use the program, the documents say.

According to an internal NSA presentation from 2008, the program is a productive espionage tool. Starting with the metadata -- or information about which data connections were made and when -- it is able, for instance, to retroactively reveal any terms the target person has typed into a search engine, the documents show. In addition, the system is able to receive a "full take" of all unfiltered data over a period of several days -- including, at least in part, the content of communications.

This is relevant from a German perspective, because the documents show that of the up to 500 million data connections from Germany accessed monthly by the NSA, a major part is collected with XKeyScore (for instance, around 180 million in December 2012). The BND and BfV, when contacted by SPIEGEL, would not discuss the espionage tool. The NSA, as well, declined to comment, referring instead to the words of US President Barack Obama during his visit to Berlin and saying there was nothing to add.

'Eagerness and Desire'

Furthermore, the documents show that the cooperation of the German intelligence agencies with the NSA has recently intensified. Reference is made to the "eagerness and desire" of BND head Gerhard Schindler. "The BND has been working to influence the German government to relax interpretation of the privacy laws to provide greater opportunities of intelligence sharing," the NSA noted in January. Over the course of 2012, German partners had shown a "willingness to take risks and to pursue new opportunities for cooperation with the US."

In Afghanistan, it says elsewhere in the document, the BND had even proved to be the NSA's "most prolific partner" when it came to information gathering. The relationship is also close on a personal level: At the end of April, just a few weeks before the first revelations by former intelligence agency employee Edward Snowden, a 12-member high-level BND delegation was invited to the NSA to meet with various specialists on the subject of "data acquisition."

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1. It is not enough tu complain!
Inglenda2 07/20/2013
Most of us are annoyed, not only by the way we are being spied upon, but also because the politicians as a whole are not keeping their vows, to protect the interest of their constituents. There is however an action we could all take, that would be, to flood the internet with terms and expressions known to cause worry within the secret services. Were we all to take part, their whole, costly and undemocratic interference would prove to be even more useless and unreliable, than it was in the case of Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. After all, in most cases, they have no right whatsoever, to read our private messages!
2. The US and Germany have much in common
High Hat 07/21/2013
A common desire to choke the living crap out of our intelligence agencies. How in the hell they think spying on all their citizens will help them catch Muslim terrorists is beyond me!
3. optional
delia 07/21/2013
"The BND has been working to influence the German government to relax interpretation of the privacy laws to provide greater opportunities of intelligence sharing," This is almost unbelievable. Surely Merkel -- of all people -- knows where this leads. Germany, the one nation of all nations on the planet that is not allowed to forget its past. Germany, whose public purse remains permanently open to its past victims is the same purse from which comes the funding for this dangerous thin edge of the wedge, this slippery slope of espionage practiced on its own people. ... nicht zu fassen.
4. Same as USA
thomaswayneward 07/21/2013
Looks like the German leader is no different than the USA political leaders.
5. optional
maghlouth 07/21/2013
General Dwight David Eisenhower, commander of all the Allied forces in Europe during World War II and then US President said once "even great people do cry" and this also apply "even great leaders of great nations do lie too"
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