Partner and Target: NSA Snoops on 500 Million German Data Connections

By Laura Poitras, and Holger Stark

A former NSA monitoring base in Bad Aibling, Germany: Only now is the scope of spying becoming clear. Zoom
REUTERS

A former NSA monitoring base in Bad Aibling, Germany: Only now is the scope of spying becoming clear.

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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1. More Data Means Actually Less Timely Intelligence
spon-facebook-1129801511 06/30/2013
As has been seen, this level of data-gathering has not helped in any aversion of any attacks - but like in the case of Mumbai-26/11 attacks, post-facto evidence, of dubious value has been culled from archives. While highly objectionable and extremely derogatory, all this surveillance serves little useful purpose. More important is the question is how little the difference between One-Party Regimes of China, Russia and 2-Party Democracy of the USA. http://quicktake.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/questions-snowden-has-not-asked-more-important-than-the-answers-that-he-has-given/
2. optional
rightsreserved 06/30/2013
People don't seem to be getting what this is all really about or the monumental implications of it. This information awareness system is the largest gold mine in human history. Politically-favored corporations/governments/private entities who have access to this can quickly and easily dominate nearly every financial market on the planet, or send it spiraling. Imagine for one second knowing the details of every Report or research paper before it is published, every discovery or disaster before any news report can even be broadcast, every lawsuit or Patent before it is filed, every merger/sale/acquisition/bankruptcy/scandal/hiring/firing/contract/marriage/divorce/retirement etc etc etc before it is announced, and so on and so on. In today's world of high volume micro-trading with sophisticated algorithms running on supercomputers, anyone with even partial access to this could position themselves to extract as much wealth and value out of the markets as they desired. Its the ultimate system of insider information and corporate espionage. It is an economic Doomsday Device, and it is already fully operational... and no one appears to realize or be talking about THAT. It is conspicuously absent from all the debates, even though the Patriot Act and the NDAA are positively littered with cryptic references to financial systems and economies. This thing has been purpose-built for it. None of the so-called "safeguards" address it, there is no Public oversight in that aspect at all, much less any accountability. Obviously, there are many tin-foil-hat-wearing Legitimacy Theorists that still foolishly Trust the federal U.S. government (and the multinational corporations & banking interests that run it) will never, ever allow anything like that to go on...
3. Keep Up The Good Work
Ted Bell 07/01/2013
German Privacy laws are among the most broad on the planet. The good thing about this formal inquiry is that new international law can be created, and designed to protect the privacy of all citizens. The NSA is clearly wrong in this; and capture of others communications is based on a Bush-era ideology of "Preventative" and "Pre-Emptive" acts. However, these days, there is no terrorist threat. Osama Bin Laden was captured, and given adequate treatment for his crimes. Originally, the people of the US sided with "Preventative" ideology, however, things happen; and that is exactly what businesses in the insurance industry are supposed to pay for. In the unfortunate situation of 9-11, and with Bush's purported family ties to the Bin Laden Oil families, they looked for other reasons, and developed surveillance industries. Granted, many believe that the internet and "information services" (which are unregulated; and also are not subject to the same type of tap-and-trace wiretap requirements.) It's real sad situation that we're in. What German Enforcers are likely to find, when they likely start with inquiries of Deutsche Telekom's US Units and properties, is that German privacy law was likely applied. This, however, is likely not the same situation with other companies. I happened to work on a few of these types of projects, and when I returned to Denver, the first person I shared my experiences with was my local Congressman. He agreed with me, and has introduced a senate bill to protect privacy again. Just because a company is given a "Free Pass" in the form of immunity in the US doesn't mean that the same "Free Pass" is directly tenderable in other countries. I suggest that officials in Germany and abroad excersize their free-will and ability to pursue questions of law, based on local jurisdictions. Once legal precedent is set, international law can be created to protect the rights and ability to communicate as a birthright.
4. 500m every day or every month?
nomuryo 07/01/2013
I assume that the article's summary should read as "the American intelligence service monitors around half a billion telephone calls, emails and text messages in the country every MONTH."
5. Partner and Target: NSA
OnkelHannes 07/01/2013
Sadly for Germany, if the NSA is similarly tasked as they are in the USA, Mosques will be off limits to their monitoring. Had the Mosques in the Boston area been monitored the bombing incident at the conclusion of the marathon might have been avoided. The eldest Tsarnaev brother was noted for fiery, revolutionary speech.
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