‘Germany kowtowing to NSA & US to amplify spying capabilities across Europe’

Annie Machon
Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer for MI5, the UK Secur­ity Ser­vice, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incom­pet­ence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Draw­ing on her var­ied exper­i­ences, she is now a pub­lic speaker, writer, media pun­dit, inter­na­tional tour and event organ­iser, polit­ical cam­paigner, and PR con­sult­ant. She is also now the Dir­ector of LEAP, Europe. She has a rare per­spect­ive both on the inner work­ings of gov­ern­ments, intel­li­gence agen­cies and the media, as well as the wider implic­a­tions for the need for increased open­ness and account­ab­il­ity in both pub­lic and private sectors.
General view shows Germany's intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) headquarters in Pullach near Munich, Germany August 24, 2016. © Michaela Rehle
Germany is desperate to be part of the “Five Eyes” spy network which includes the UK and the US, and seems to be ready to do anything to curry favor with their masters, says former MI5 agent Annie Machon.

Germany's spy agency, the BND, is being put under closer scrutiny. Parliament has voted for more oversight of the Federal Intelligence Service in the wake of revelations three years ago that it helped America's National Security Agency to spy on European politicians.

There will be an independent panel to investigate claims of abuse of power. But the agency will still be allowed to spy on EU institutions and member states, if the information it gathers is considered significant for Germany's foreign policy.

The reform also permits the BND to cooperate with foreign intelligence services such as the NSA, if harvested intel serves specific purposes like the battle against terrorism. 

That's angered opposition MPs who voted against the bill.

Hans-Christian Stroebele MP, from Germany’s “Alliance 90” group, said: “Instead of designing a bill that will bring the functions of the Federal Intelligence Service in compliance with the constitution, you are giving the Federal Intelligence Service permission to continue with illegal practices which they have been doing for more than 15 years.”

RT: What difference is this going to make? Sounds like it'll still be able to get up to the activities that got into hot water before?

Annie Machon: They will get more powers, absolutely. And this means that they will be doing it legally for the first time in many years. This mirrors what’s going on in the UK with the Investigatory Powers Bill which is passing through the parliament at the moment when, both in the UK and in Germany now, we have a tacit acknowledgement by the spies that what they have been doing for at least the last 15 years has indeed been illegal in terms of spying on their own citizens and wider citizens of the EU. And yet the very fact they are putting through these laws is an admission that they have been breaking the law, so why they are not being called to account for that very law breaking?

RT: The agency will be allowed to spy on EU targets if the information helps Germany's foreign policy. Is it clear who is setting the boundaries and standard here though? 

AM: Well, indeed. It is the concept of national security foreign policy, it tends to be very elastic terms when in the hands of the spies. They can pretty much do what they want within those boundaries. It is very dangerous toward the constitution. The BND is the sort of external-looking intelligence agency, the BfV, which is actually the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany, indeed should be investigating the BND for an egregious abuse of the Constitution. 

RT: Is that a worry for Germany's EU neighbors?

AM: I think any neighbor should be sleeping more uneasily, should we say. Germany over the last few years – it became clear after the Snowden disclosures – has desperately been kowtowing to the NSA and the US by developing programs such as XKeyscore to amplify the spying capabilities across Europe. They are desperate to be part of what is known as the “Five Eyes” network, which includes the UK and the US and they were told repeatedly they cannot be part of that network. So, they seem to want to do anything to curry favor with their masters.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.