German weekly Die Zeit has published documents that reveal how the country’s domestic spies did a deal with the NSA to get their mitts on souped-up surveillance software.
Under the 2012 agreement between the United States National Security Agency and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the latter agreed not to spy on Americans in exchange for access to the XKeyscore program, first exposed by Edward Snowden two years ago. It also promised to pass on the information it gathered using the program to the US “to the maximum possible extent.”
According to the report, XKeyscore was able to “recognise, for example, Hotmail, Yahoo or Facebook. It was also able to identify usernames and passwords.”
Unlike its foreign counterpart BND, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, BfV is not allowed to set up a mass surveillance operation. Instead it must target specific suspect individuals, but thanks to the deal with the US, not if they are American. “The term US persons includes US citizens, an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the US, groups and associations a substantial number of the members of which are US citizens, or corporations incorporated in the US,” reads the Terms of Reference.
Die Zeit said it was publishing the details of the agreement “because it proves what exactly German intelligence agencies give to the NSA in exchange for technical support. We believe it potentially violates the fundamental rights of German citizens, and that the danger of such violations remains clear and present.”
The journalists involved may want to check they’re not being followed after two other journalists were investigated for treason earlier this year for doing exactly the same thing – the charges were eventually dropped.