Berlin did nothing to violate German law when it comes to alleged involvement in the activities of the United States National Security Agency, Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff said on Thursday.
Facing a closed-door special parliamentary committee, Ronald Pofalla, who supervises the country's intelligence agencies, strongly denied that they had illegally supported the US in surveillance activities recently brought to light by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
"Data protection is being 100 percent upheld by the German intelligence agencies," he told the media afterwards. "There is not a single indication that points to data protection not being adequately observed."
He also said that German citizens' data had not been transferred to the US, but admitted he could not yet provide a comprehensive report on the activities of US intelligence activities in Germany. Such a report remains contingent on getting further information from Washington, he said.
Opposition politicians, who have questioned whether Berlin was really in the dark about the NSA's spying as it has claimed, said they were not satisfied with his answers and that many questions remained.
Center-left Social Democrat and committee chairman Thomas Oppermann demanded further explanation. "The most important question is: How it can be that millions of German citizens and companies had their entire communication activity monitored by a foreign intelligence service, and the federal government claims that it only found out about it from the newspaper," he said, adding that it remained an "intolerable state of affairs."
As more details emerge about the scope of the NSA's worldwide spying program and Germany's alleged role in the surveillance, the scandal is becoming a central issue in the country's campaign for the upcoming general election in September. Germans are particularly sensitive about data protection because of their history of state encroachment on civil liberties, first under the Nazis and then in communist East Germany. And if it turns out that Berlin knowingly tolerated and participated in the NSA activities, many would see it as a betrayal by the government.
While Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) continues to lead polls ahead of the vote, the opposition has been increasing pressure on the Chancellor to explain her position and take a tougher stance against Washington.