New NSA Revelations: Inside Snowden's Germany File

By SPIEGEL Staff

Photo Gallery: The NSA's German Presence Photos
REUTERS

An analysis of secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden demonstrates that the NSA is more active in Germany than anywhere else in Europe -- and that data collected here may have helped kill suspected terrorists.

Just before Christmas 2005, an unexpected event disrupted the work of American spies in the south-central German city of Wiesbaden. During the installation of a fiber-optic cable near the Rhine River, local workers encountered a suspicious metal object, possibly an undetonated World War II explosive. It was certainly possible: Adolf Hitler's military had once maintained a tank repair yard in the Wiesbaden neighborhood of Mainz-Kastel.

The Americans -- who maintained what was officially known as a "Storage Station" on Ludwig Wolker Street -- prepared an evacuation plan. And on Jan. 24, 2006, analysts with the National Security Agency (NSA) cleared out their offices, cutting off the intelligence agency's access to important European data streams for an entire day, a painfully long time. The all-clear only came that night: The potential ordinance turned out to be nothing more than a pile of junk.

Residents in Mainz-Kastel knew nothing of the incident.

Of course, everybody living there knows of the 20-hectare (49-acre) US army compound. A beige wall topped with barbed wire protects the site from the outside world; a sign outside warns, "Beware, Firearms in Use!"

Americans in uniform have been part of the cityscape in Wiesbaden for decades, and local businesses have learned to cater to their customers from abroad. Used-car dealerships post their prices in dollars and many Americans are regulars at the local brewery. "It is a peaceful coexistence," says Christa Gabriel, head of the Mainz-Kastel district council.

But until now, almost nobody in Wiesbaden knew that Building 4009 of the "Storage Station" houses one of the NSA's most important European data collection centers. Its official name is the European Technical Center (ETC), and, as documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden show, it has been expanded in recent years. From an American perspective, the program to improve the center -- which was known by the strange code name "GODLIKELESION" -- was badly needed. In early 2010, for example, the NSA branch office lost power 150 times within the space just a few months -- a serious handicap for a service that strives to monitor all of the world's data traffic.

NSA Sites in Germany
 
REUTERS

Wiesbaden

In the US Army's so-called Storage Station in the Wiesbaden district of Mainz-Kastel, the European Technical Center (ETC) can be found, a facility that is also used by the NSA. Only five kilometers away, in the Clay Kaserne located in the Erbenheim district of Wiesbaden, the Consolidated Intelligence Center is currently under construction, a site that will likely provide a new home to the signal intelligence specialists currently working in Mainz-Kastel. The new center is costing the Americans $124 million.
Click here to access the documents.

DPA

Griesheim

The European Cryptologic Center (ECC) in Griesheim, not far from Darmstadt, was originally called the European Security Center (ESC) of the NSA and was briefly also named the European Security Operations Center (ESOC). Officially, the site is called the Dagger Complex. Several hundred people work here, including employees of both the NSA and of private security companies. It is considered to be one of the most important NSA sites in Europe. The fenced-in site is located not far from the August Euler airstrip.
Click here to access the documents.

Thomas Klink/ DER SPIEGEL

Stuttgart

The official NSA headquarters in Germany is known as NSA/CSS Representative Europe Office (National Security Agency / Central Security Services) and is located in the Patch Barracks in the Stuttgart district of Vaihingen. This is also where the US European Command (EUCOM) is housed, the headquarters of the US military in Europe.
Click here to access the documents.

REUTERS

Berlin

The Special Collection Service (SCS) is a unit operated jointly by the NSA and CIA which collects telecommunications and IT data. Germany‘s prosecutors have taken a special interest in the SCS in recent weeks due to the surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s mobile phone. The SCS also maintains a listening post at the US Embassy in Berlin, located next to the Brandenburg Gate.
Click here to access the documents.

DPA

Frankfurt am Main

The Special Collection Service (SCS) is a unit operated jointly by the NSA and CIA which collects telecommunications and IT data. Germany‘s prosecutors have taken a special interest in the SCS in recent weeks due to the surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s mobile phone. The SCS also maintains a listening post at the US Consulate General in Frankfurt.
Click here to access the documents.

Thomas Plettenberg/ DER SPIEGEL

Bad-Aibling

In the Mangfall Kaserne in Bad Aibling, Germany‘s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country‘s foreign intelligence agency, maintains a base. A building belonging to the NSA is also located here. It is the official liaison office between the two agencies and is called SUSLAG, which stands for Special US Liaison Activity Germany. The two intelligence agencies have worked closely together in Bad Aibling. According to a BND statement, a joint intelligence analysis center was closed down years ago.
Click here to access the documents.

On Sept. 19, 2011, the Americans celebrated the reopening of the refurbished ETC, and since then, the building has been the NSA's "primary communications hub" in Europe. From here, a Snowden document outlines, huge amounts of data are intercepted and forwarded to "NSAers, warfighters and foreign partners in Europe, Africa and the Middle East." The hub, the document notes, ensures the reliable transfer of data for "the foreseeable future."

Soon the NSA will have an even more powerful and modern facility at their disposal: Just five kilometers away, in the Clay Kaserne, a US military complex located in the Erbenheim district of Wiesbaden, the "Consolidated Intelligence Center" is under construction. It will house data-monitoring specialists from Mainz-Kastel. The project in southern Hesse comes with a price tag of $124 million (€91 million). When finished, the US government will be even better equipped to satisfy its vast hunger for data.

One year after Edward Snowden made the breadth of the NSA's global data monitoring public, much remains unknown about the full scope of the intelligence service's activities in Germany. We know that the Americans monitored the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and we know that there are listening posts in the US Embassy in Berlin and in the Consulate General in Frankfurt.

But much remains in the dark. The German government has sent lists of questions to the US government on several occasions, and a parliamentary investigative committee has begun looking into the subject in Berlin. Furthermore, Germany's chief public prosecutor has initiated an investigation into the NSA -- albeit one currently limited to its monitoring of the chancellor's cell phone and not the broader allegation that it spied on the communications of the German public. Neither the government nor German lawmakers nor prosecutors believe they will receive answers from officials in the United States.

German Left Party politician Jan Korte recently asked just how much the German government knows about American spying activities in Germany. The answer: Nothing. The NSA's promise to send a package including all relevant documents to re-establish transparency between the two governments has been quietly forgotten by the Americans.

In response, SPIEGEL has again reviewed the Snowden documents relating to Germany and compiled a Germany File of original documents pertaining to the NSA's activities in the country that are now available for download here. SPIEGEL has reported on the contents of some of the documents over the course of the past year. The content of others is now being written about for the first time. Some passages of the documents have been redacted in order to remove sensitive information like the names of NSA employees or those of the German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). This week's reports are also based on documents and information from other sources.

An Omnipotent American Authority

The German public has a right to know exactly what the NSA is doing in Germany, and should be given the ability to draw its own conclusions about the extent of the US intelligence agency's activities in the country and the scope of its cooperation with German agencies when it comes to, for example, the monitoring of fiber-optic cables.

The German archive provides the basis for a critical discussion on the necessity and limits of secret service work as well as on the protection of privacy in the age of digital communication. The documents complement the debate over a trans-Atlantic relationship that has been severely damaged by the NSA affair.

They paint a picture of an all-powerful American intelligence agency that has developed an increasingly intimate relationship with Germany over the past 13 years while massively expanding its presence. No other country in Europe plays host to a secret NSA surveillance architecture comparable to the one in Germany. It is a web of sites defined as much by a thirst for total control as by the desire for security. In 2007, the NSA claimed to have at least a dozen active collection sites in Germany.

The documents indicate that the NSA uses its German sites to search for a potential target by analyzing a "Pattern of Life," in the words of one Snowden file. And one classified report suggests that information collected in Germany is used for the "capture or kill" of alleged terrorists.

According to Paragraph 99 of Germany's criminal code, spying is illegal on German territory, yet German officials would seem to know next to nothing about the NSA's activity in their country. For quite some time, it appears, they didn't even want to know. It wasn't until Snowden went public with his knowledge that the German government became active.

On June 11, August 26 and October 24 of last year, Berlin sent a catalogue of questions to the US government. During a visit to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland at the beginning of November, German intelligence heads Gerhard Schindler (of the BND) and Hans-Georg Maassen (of the domestic intelligence agency, known as the Office for the Protection of the Constitution or BfV) asked the most important questions in person and, for good measure, handed over a written list. No answers have been forthcoming. This leaves the Snowden documents as the best source for describing how the NSA has turned Germany into its most important base in Europe in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The NSA's European Headquarters

On March 10, 2004, two US generals -- Richard J. Quirk III of the NSA and John Kimmons, who was the US Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence -- finalized an agreement to establish an operations center in Germany, the European Security Center (ESC), to be located on US Army property in the town of Griesheim near Darmstadt, Germany. That center is now the NSA's most important listening station in Europe.

The NSA had already dispatched an initial team to southern Germany in early 2003. The agency stationed a half-dozen analysts at the its European headquarters in Stuttgart's Vaihingen neighborhood, where their work focused largely on North Africa. The analysts' aims, according to internal documents, included providing support to African governments in securing borders and ensuring that they didn't offer safe havens to terrorist organizations or their accomplices.

The work quickly bore fruit. It became increasingly easy to track the movements of suspicious persons in Mali, Mauritania and Algeria through the surveillance of satellite telephones. NSA workers passed information on to the US military's European Command, with some also being shared with individual governments in Africa. A US government document states that the intelligence insights have "been responsible for the capture or kill of over 40 terrorists and has helped achieve GWOT (Global War on Terror) and regional policy successes in Africa."

Is Germany an NSA Beachhead?

The documents in Snowden's archive raise the question of whether Germany has become a beachhead for America's deadly operations against suspected terrorists -- and whether the CIA and the American military use data collected in Germany in the deployment of its combat drones. When asked about this by SPIEGEL, the NSA declined to respond.

The operations of the NSA's analysts in Stuttgart were so successful that the intelligence agency quickly moved to expand its presence. In 2004, the Americans obtained approximately 1,000 square meters (10,750 square feet) of office space in Griesheim to host 59 workers who monitored communications in an effort to "optimize support to Theater operations" of the US Armed Forces. Ten years later, the center, although largely used by the military, has become the NSA's most important outpost in Europe -- with a mandate that goes far beyond providing support for the US military.

In 2011, around 240 intelligence service analysts were working at the Griesheim facility, known as the Dagger Complex. It was a "diverse mix of military service members, Department of the Army civilians, NSA civilians, and contractors," an internal document states. They were responsible for both collecting and analyzing international communication streams. One member of the NSA pointed out proudly that they were responsible for every step in the process: collection, processing, analyzing and distribution.

In May 2011, the installation was renamed the European Center for Cryptology (ECC) and the NSA integrated its Threat Operations Center, responsible for early danger identification, into the site. A total of 26 reconnaissance missions are managed from the Griesheim complex, which has since become the center of the "largest Analysis and Production activity in Europe," with satellite stations in Mons, Belgium, and in Great Britain. Internal documents indicate that the ECC is the operative intelligence arm of the NSA's European leadership in Stuttgart.

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1. Fuck the NSA!
mangeder 06/18/2014
They are the true terrorists and enemies of democracy and freedom.
2. optional
abbadabba 06/18/2014
Just for perspective's sake, can any American imagine tolerating an occupational force like the one we've rigged ourselves in Germany? Care to venture what Rush might scream? What president would prevail under that dishonorable position? Why are the Germans so cooperative? Why are some collaborating? They think we will observe the rule of law? What law? HA HA HA HA! Resist while you still can, Germany!!
3. NSA in Germany
Fritz Oz 06/18/2014
Killing terrorists is necessary unless you want to live in a society where this web site would not even be allowed.
4. Danke Spiegel
audi44 06/19/2014
Ihr habt mehr fuer die Demokraie getan denn der korrupte Filz in der deutschen Politik
5. The NSA does what it is paid for, German politicians do not!
Inglenda2 06/19/2014
The all-powerful American intelligence agency in Germany has for many years not only developed an intimate relationship with the German government, it does directly, or indirectly, decide what policies are to be pursued. The only real answer to the NSA problem, would be a clean up of the political Mafia in Berlin, but this is hardly likely to happen, in a land which calls itself a democracy, but does little or nothing for its own citizens.
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