According to local media reports Thursday, German intelligence agency BND (the Bundesnachrichtendienst) has helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) spy on the European Commission and French authorities since 2008.
German officials themselves were not targeted because of a NSA-BND deal signed in 2002. The revelations have provoked an outcry in Germany with daily paper Bild accusing Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere of outright lying. Süddeutsche Zeitung in its coverage claimed that the bulk of the spying was on arms firms and was more along the lines of economic espionage.
De Maiziere denies any knowledge of wrongdoing by the intelligence agencies, but says he would like to see the leaked report in which the allegations are contained examined by a parliamentary committee.
The European Commission’s response to the news that it had been spied on was rather more quixotic.
“When it comes to our role in the world, in a way, it’s good that people are interested in us,” said the ever-sardonic Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.
“But this falls within the purview of the national authorities and indeed it is their duty to investigate. The Commission does not have any sort of intelligence services and we do not spy on anyone,” he continued before adding that the Commission is “on the ball.” He did not elaborate on what exactly that means or if the Commish had prior knowledge of the revelations.
Asked what would happen next, Schinas said: “The appropriate measures will be taken, at the appropriate level, by the appropriate people.”
In other words, “we’ll leave this one to the Germans.”
President of the Commission Jean Claude Juncker said that in his experience (as former Luxembourg PM) intelligence service personnel “are very difficult to control”.
“I am not a member of the enquiry commission of the Bundestag and I don’t have any intelligence of what was happening in Germany - we’ll see,” he said.
German MEP and the European Parliament’s MR Data Protection, Jan Philipp Albrecht said that the revelations had added a new dimension to the surveillance scandal in Europe and the United States.
“It is now clearer than ever, that not only the NSA but also EU intelligence agencies like the German BND are massively collecting information on EU companies, politicians and citizens."
After Snowden’s first revelations Angela Merkel said strongly that “spying on friends is a no-go”. So either EU member states are no friends to Merkel or she doesn’t take her own words seriously. ®