German intelligence halts internet surveillance for NSA – reports

Former monitoring base of the US intelligence organization National Security Agency (NSA) in Bad Aibling south of Munich, Germany (Reuters)
The German secret service BND has pulled the plug on the internet surveillance program for the US National Security Agency (NSA) amid the growing scandal over its extent of cooperation in spying on its EU partners, German media reported.

READ MORE: Espionage affaire: Austria files complaint against German & US intelligence

The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) – the German Federal Intelligence Service – stopped sharing internet surveillance data with the NSA on Monday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, public broadcasters NDR and WDR, and national news agency DPA reported.

Berlin has demanded that the US spy agency first file an official request explaining the need for the internet-based data from Germany’s Bad Aibling listening post in Bavaria, where 120 BND employees and some NSA technicians work, according to reports.

The NSA has reportedly refused to comply with the request due to short notice. Washington has not yet commented on the issue.

READ MORE: BND helped NSA spy on EU politicians & companies ‘against German interests’

However, the BND will continue to garner telephone calls and fax messages for Washington as this service falls under a different agreement.

German media reported on Thursday that the Chancellery made the decision to limit cooperation with the NSA in order to reshape future relations with the agency.

The request comes amid an investigation into recent revelations that suggested the BND had been spying on European politicians and enterprises for Washington for over a decade.

READ MORE: German opposition demands probe into BND/NSA surveillance & industrial espionage

Konstantin von Notz, an opposition Green party member on the investigation committee, confirmed the significant curtailment of cooperation in an interview to ARD television, saying “This is a drastic step.”

"I think they've pulled the emergency brake because, even in 2015, they still can't control the search terms for Internet traffic." He also accused the German government of failing to “protect German and European interests."
On Monday Chancellor Angela Merkel, who heads the foreign intelligence agency, tried to defend its spying activities saying that she will fully cooperate with a parliamentary investigation and provide “all the details” necessary.

She added that it was imperative both agencies continue cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, but reiterated that it’s unacceptable to spy on friendly nations.

READ MORE: German govt accused of lying to parliament about NSA spying

Members of Merkel’s cabinet have been testifying before the parliamentary investigation committee over allegations that the BND acted against national interests. Among the latest was the testimony of current Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who oversaw the foreign agency’s activities from 2005 to 2009 when he was the chancellor's chief of staff.

After a closed testimony on Wednesday, De Maiziere told reporters that he knew nothing of the "search terms from the US side, selectors or similar, for the purpose of economic espionage in Germany."

In April, Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had sent the BND thousands of so-called ‘selectors’, which included IP addresses, emails, and phone numbers, over the course of 10 years. The BND downloaded the NSA selectors into their monitoring system and used them to spy on targets, among which were European politicians, including French authorities, and European companies such as European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), Eurocopter, and the European aviation consortium Airbus.