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5 Aug, 2013 13:21

German minister calls on secret service to explain complicity in NSA snooping

German minister calls on secret service to explain complicity in NSA snooping

The German secret service must explain why it handed over metadata to the NSA, a minister has said. Germany’s government claimed it was ignorant of the activity of the secret service, which was described as being “in bed with the US” by Edward Snowden.

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger used a newspaper interview as a platform to demand answers from the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

"If it is true that the BND made itself available as a tool for the NSA in the mass gathering of data, than something urgently needs to be done,”
she said in an interview in Monday’s edition of the Münchner Merkur newspaper. She added the BND must finally put the facts on the table regarding its collaboration with the American National Security Agency.

The BND confirmed the reports leaked by former CIA worker Edward Snowden regarding the sharing of data with the NSA on Saturday.  Snowden leaked information to German publication Der Spiegel that the NSA had received 500 pieces of data from the BND in December of last year alone.

The BND reportedly also made use of the NSA’s XKeyScore program, which was installed to “expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT (counterterrorism) targets.”

A spokesperson from the BND told DPA news agency that all the activities carried out were in compliance of German law. He also claimed that all personal information was filtered out of the data packages handed over to the US to protect the anonymity of citizens.

Tonie Manders, the chairman of the Libertarian Party in the Netherlands, told RT that far-reaching government surveillance has already inspired enough anger among the international population to force lawmakers to reconsider their position. Germany’s Pirate Party, among other advocates, has quickly gained public acceptance. 

If you look at the kind of numbers that the Pirate Party is doing in the polls it obviously has an impact. And also, in the United States, during the presidential election of 2012 Ron Paul did very well partly because he made an issue out of the government spying on its own citizens,” Manders said. “The same thing is happening with Rand Paul, who is going to run in the 2016 presidential election. He is also making an issue out of this and is doing well in the national polls as a result.” 

As for peeling back the already existing surveillance laws, Manders said, the responsibility lies with the public to defeat apathy and make an educated decision at the voting booth. 

That depends on who is in power,” he went on. “Obviously George Bush did his best to make sure that this sort of spying was actually being done a lot more rather than less and Obama has also done his best to get the government to spy on its citizens. With people like these in power, nothing is going to change; it’s only going to get worse.”

Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach

Communications breakdown?

When the scandal initially emerged, German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that she had had no knowledge of the BND’s collaboration with the NSA and said she had found out about it through press reports.

In the face of criticism in the run up to national elections, Merkel said that Germany was “not a surveillance state” and German law still applied, but conceded that there were limits in an age of global communication systems.

Thousands of Germans across the country voiced their anger at the government’s complicity in the NSA’s spy program. Demonstrations were organized in over 40 cities, with the largest taking place in Frankfurt.

In an interview with a cipher expert released by Der Spiegel, Snowden said that the ties between EU secret services and NSA were specially created to “insulate” their leaders.

“Other agencies don't ask us where we got the information from and we don't ask them. That way they can protect their top politicians from the backlash in case it emerges how massively people's privacy is abused worldwide,” he said.

AFP Photo / DPA / Peter Steffen Germany out

He suggested that politicians were shielded from the illegal methods used to gather information on citizens to protect their political careers.

Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s sweeping spy programs that it used to gather information on citizens the world over. The US justified the programs as a necessary evil to preserve their national security and protect against terrorism.

Washington has issued an extradition order against Edward Snowden on charges of espionage. He is currently located in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.