Growing Alarm: German Prosecutors to Review Allegations of US Spying

SPIEGEL has learned that the German Federal Prosecutors' Office is looking into allegations that a US intelligence agency has conducted massive spying against German citizens. A first formal complaint has already been lodged in one city.

The NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland: German justice officials are reviewing allegations of spying against German citizens. Zoom
DPA/ NSA

The NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland: German justice officials are reviewing allegations of spying against German citizens.

Germany's Federal Prosecutors' Office confirmed to SPIEGEL on Sunday that it is looking into whether systematic data spying against the country conducted by America's National Security Agency violated laws aimed at protecting German citizens.

A spokeswoman at the Federal Prosecutors' Office, which is responsible for domestic security issues, told SPIEGEL that all available and relevant information about the Prism, Tempora and Boundless Informant spying programs is currently being reviewed by the agency. The spokeswoman said the office was seeking to form a reliable understanding of the facts. However, the agency has not indicated when or if it will launch a formal investigation.

Nevertheless, the spokeswoman said that "criminal complaints" relating to the scandal appear "likely". One criminal complaint has already been filed in Germany. SPIEGEL has learned that a provision was used at the local public prosecutor's office in the city of Giessen to lodge a criminal complaint against an unknown perpetrator over the spying.

According to the content of documents viewed by SPIEGEL, spying by the American National Security Agency (NSA) has been far more widespread than previously believed. Secret NSA documents show that authorities systematically monitored and saved a large share of Internet and telephone connection data. Internal NSA statistics show that around 500 million communications connections in Germany are monitored monthly by the agency. The NSA also classifies Germany as a "target" for spying.

In addition, SPIEGEL reported this weekend that the NSA has bugged European Union diplomatic offices in the United States for eavesdropping purposes and that it has infiltrated EU computer networks. The revelations come from material about the NSA's Prism and Britain's Tempora programs compiled by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Video Conference Planned Between British, German Officials

Meanwhile, the British government -- whose Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence service operates the Tempora spying program that is in part directed at Germany -- has shifted away from its strict policy of silence on the issue. In response to requests from the German government for additional information during the past week, officials in London said only that they fundamentally do not address issues pertaining to intelligence operations publicly . Any inquiries were directed by the government to the British intelligence agencies.

The response angered politicians in Germany, especially Justice Minister Sabine Leuthheusser-Schnarrenberger, who complained of having only received "three meager sentences" in reply. The politician, with the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), said the terse response didn't go far enough to contain a scandal of this proportion.

Berlin officials have since been invited by the British government to participate in a video conference on Monday at 4 p.m. in the British Embassy in Berlin. SPIEGEL has learned that the German government will be represented by senior officials from the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND. Government sources said that in light of the revelations, tough questions are likely to be posed at the meeting.

dsl -- with wires

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