SPIEGEL ONLINE

SPIEGEL ONLINE

06/30/2013 07:19 PM

Partner and Target

NSA Snoops on 500 Million German Data Connections

By Laura Poitras, and

NSA spying is targeting Germany more intensely than previously believed. Secret documents viewed by SPIEGEL reveal that the American intelligence service monitors around half a billion telephone calls, emails and text messages in the country every month.

America's National Security Agency (NSA) is apparently spying on Germany more than previously believed. Secret documents from the US intelligence service, which have been viewed by SPIEGEL journalists, reveal that the NSA systematically monitors and stores a large share of the country's telephone and Internet connection data.

Internal NSA statistics indicate that the agency stores data from around half a billion communications connections in Germany each month. This data includes telephone calls, emails, mobile-phone text messages and chat transcripts. The metadata -- or information about which call or data connections were made and when -- is then stored at the NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, near Washington, DC.

The documents show for the first time the scope of American surveillance in Germany. Previously, it had only been clear that Germany had been one of the major targets of NSA spying. A map published by the Guardian shows that Germany is on a par with targets such as China, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in terms of the intensity of electronic snooping. For weeks now, new details have emerged from documents collected by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the NSA's Prism and Britain's Tempora digital spying programs.

The statistics, which SPIEGEL has also seen, show that data is collected from Germany on normal days for up to 20 million telephone calls and 10 million Internet data exchanges. Last Christmas Eve, it collected data on around 13 million phone calls and about half as many online exchanges. On the busiest days, such as January 7 of this year, the information gathered spiked to nearly 60 million communication connections under surveillance.

The NSA, it turns out, is more active in Germany than in any other of the EU's 27 member states. By comparison, during the same time frame, the Americans only recorded data on an average of 2 million connections in France each day. The documents also show that the NSA is primarily interested in important Internet hubs in southern and western Germany. Frankfurt, for example, plays an important role in the global Internet infrastructure, and the city is listed as a central base for the country.

One top secret document also states that while Germany may be a partner, it is still also a target of the NSA's electronic snooping. According to the document, Germany is a so-called "3rd party foreign partner." The only countries that are explicitly excluded from spying attacks are Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. "We can, and often do, target the signals of most 3d party foreign partners," a slide from an internal presentation states.

In its current issue, SPIEGEL also reports that the NSA targeted European Union diplomatic offices in Washington and New York, placing bugs in offices as well as infiltrating computer networks.

SPIEGEL ONLINE International will publish the report in its entirety on Monday.

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