Et Tu, UK? Anger Grows over British Spying in Berlin

First it was the US -- and now it turns out the UK might have been spying from its embassy in Berlin, too. Officials at Germany's Foreign Ministry responded Tuesday by inviting Britain's ambassador for a lecture.

New revelations about how the UK is allegedly housing surveillance equipment in its Berlin embassy could heighten tensions between the two countries. Here, a covered structure on top of the building in Berlin.

New revelations about how the UK is allegedly housing surveillance equipment in its Berlin embassy could heighten tensions between the two countries. Here, a covered structure on top of the building in Berlin.

Reacting to allegations that yet another close ally might be spying on its leaders from an embassy in Berlin, Germany's Foreign Ministry invited Britain's ambassador to a meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the allegations. The invitation had been requested by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

During the meeting, the head of the ministry's European affairs department informed the ambassador that "eavesdropping on communications inside the offices of a diplomatic mission would violate international law," a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. The ministry did not provide addition details about the meeting.

The revelations about further alleged spying have rocked the political establishment in Berlin this week. The London-based Independent newspaper revealed Monday that British intelligence had established a "secret listening post" in the British Embassy like the one recently revealed by SPIEGEL to be in the US Embassy on the same large block. The British post, like the American one, is located near the German parliament, the Reichstag, and was disclosed in the trove of data leaked by American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Annoyance in Berlin

Tuesday's developments come one week after the Foreign Ministry ordered the US ambassador to discuss revelations in the NSA scandal that the American intelligence agency had been monitoring Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone communications for years. Since then, the ministry has been particularly sensitive to new developments in the affair. The latest report is unlikely to have the same impact as those of spying on Merkel and, indeed, an invitation for a meeting at the Foreign Ministry does not have the kind of strong diplomatic associations that being ordered to appear does. It will nevertheless send the message to officials in London that politicians in Berlin are annoyed.

According to the Independent, the British eavesdropping equipment is likely housed on embassy grounds in a white cylindrical, tent-like structure that has been there since the embassy opened in 2000. The equipment is reportedly able to intercept mobile phone and Wi-Fi signals as well as "long-distance communications across the German capital," presumably including in the Reichstag and Merkel's nearby Chancellery.

The so-called "concealed collection system," the paper continues, is operated by a small staff whose "true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility." Likewise, given the location of the equipment, the paper posits that it is unlikely that the operation did not intercept information from Chancellor Merkel.

'Completely Unacceptable'

The revelation has the potential to cause another deep rift between Germany and a close ally. The news that the United States was spying on Merkel's cellphone prompted angry reactions from German leaders, including a furious phone call from Merkel to US President Barack Obama, and discussions about sanctions and new anti-spying rules directed against the Americans. When contacted by the British newspaper, representatives from both the GCHQ, the British spying agency, and the government of Prime Minister David Cameron declined to comment.

German politicians across the political spectrum have responded to these fresh allegations with fresh anger and demands that Berlin increase its counterespionage activities.

Wolfgang Bosbach, a parliamentarian with the Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told Berlin daily Tagesspiegel that "the latest developments show that we need to sign a 'no-spy' agreement with the United Kingdom, as well," adding, "such full-blown spying is completely inacceptable and must be dealt with."

Hans-Peter Uhl, a parliamentarian with the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's Bavarian sister party, was more restrained, emphasizing to Tagesspiegel that Germany "should have the goal of developing techniques to protect our data."

Meanwhile, Thomas Oppermann, the Social Democratic chairman of the Bundestag's parliamentary control committee, which has monitoring oversight for intelligence activities in the Germany, said, "As sad as this may be, in the future we will have to assume that we are being spied on by our own friends. Trust is good, but checks are better."

Jan Albrecht, a member of the European Parliament with the environmentalist Green Party who specializes in civil rights and data protection, told the Independent: "This is hardly in the spirit of European cooperation. We are not enemies."



Discuss this issue with other readers!
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yiannaki 11/05/2013
1. When ?
And when do the Russians, the Chinese, the French and maybe even Greece come on this list ? Do wake up please ! The times of the carrier pigeon are over.
Inglenda2 11/05/2013
2. Are secret party accounts in Switzerland the answer?
No attentive Briton would place a great deal of trust in those who now govern their country. From a British point of view, it would therefore appear that the German MPs are really extremely naive, or very good actors. On the one side they show tremendous anger at being spied upon, on the other do everything possible to show that their friendship, to those who are guilty of such deceit, must on no account be damaged. It is obvious to outsiders, that a number of these German politicians, are far more loyal to their false friends, than to the voters who gave them a mandate. The question is why?
spon-facebook-1163175301 11/05/2013
3. optional
No wonder the US shut down its listening new on its embassy; it could still get the info from the Brits. So how about the Canadian, Australian, and NZ embassies?
sylvesterthecat 11/06/2013
4. optional
I understood that eavesdropping on ones friends was one of the purposes of an embassy. Incidentally, what does the BND get up to and what does it spend its funding on?
wisemanager 11/06/2013
5. spying
As a British citizen, I take the view that if there is a listening post atop the British embassy building monitoring German communication traffic then it should immediately stop. It is simply not acceptable to conduct this level of surveillance against friends and allies.
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