German domestic intelligence agency supplies data to NSA

By Sven Heymann
25 September 2013

Germany’s domestic intelligence service (BfV) supplies data to the American National Security Agency (NSA) and cooperates closely with the US spy agency. This emerged from a secret German government paper disclosed by the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

According to the paper, the BfV passed on 864 files to the NSA last year alone. It regularly supplies “valuable situation reports” to US intelligence. There were also reportedly 657 data transfers to the British intelligence services in 2012.

The BfV has already confirmed its close collaboration with the NSA. This is particularly significant since the BfV is nominally a strictly domestic intelligence agency. This suggests that the data collected and forwarded concerns people being spied upon on German territory.

In exchange for the data it has provided, the BfV has received about 4,700 records of telephone calls from the United States. Surveillance software, such as the XKeyscore programme uncovered by Edward Snowden, has been provided to the BfV by the NSA.

There are also close connections between intelligence personnel. According to the paper, a weekly meeting between an employee of the BfV and one from the NSA takes place on the “BfV’s Treptow property” in Berlin. This property is the joint counter-terrorism and extremism centre (GETZ), where employees from all of the intelligence agencies work together.

German agents have allegedly met on numerous occasions with American colleagues at the “Dagger Complex” near Darmstadt, which is one of the most important facilities for US intelligence in Europe.

It is not clear which groups of people have been affected by the surveillance and forwarding of data, tagesschau.de reported. The forwarded information supposedly consists mainly of communications from wiretapped telephones that “seemed suspicious.” The case of a journalist who fell under the surveillance of the CIA because of a few telephone calls to Yemen shows that anyone can be affected who has contact with the “wrong people.”

The BfV does not confine its collaboration to the NSA and British intelligence. As the paper reveals, there is “close and trusted collaboration” with eight other American agencies. Among these is the CIA and a previously virtually unknown “Department 15” of the US Army’s counter-intelligence service. The latter is based in Stuttgart, among other locations.

In the ongoing NSA affair, provoked by the revelations of Edward Snowden, representatives of the German government have claimed that no data on German citizens has been passed on. This is obviously a lie. At least 500 million data records were forwarded last December by the German foreign intelligence service (BND) to the NSA.

All of this data supposedly came from the “foreign reconnaissance” department. Ronald Pofalla, head of the chancellor’s office, sought to make the public believe that German Internet users were safeguarded from foreign spying by the filtering out of telephone numbers and e-mail addresses with a German code, for example “.de,” before the data was entrusted to the NSA.

When the massive quantities of telecommunications data being passed on by the BND to the NSA became public, the German government remained silent on the cooperation between the two intelligence agencies. All of the opposition parties also covered up the secret machinations of Germany’s security apparatus.

BfV chief Hans-Jörg Maaßen responded to a question from the Süddeutsche Zeitung by saying that the parliamentary control committee (PKG) was “extensively” informed about the cooperation between the domestic intelligence service and the NSA. Representatives of all parliamentary parties, including the Left Party, sit on this committee, which is responsible for overseeing the intelligence services. If Maaßen’s statement is true, then all of the representatives have concealed the close cooperation between the domestic intelligence service and the NSA from the public.

The Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens bear the main responsibility for the expansion of the German security apparatus over the last 12 years. Now, they fear that the new exposures will discredit the intelligence services, and they are attempting damage control.

The SPD’s spokesman for domestic policy, Michael Hartmann, said it had “to be confirmed if the domestic intelligence agency had crossed a red line.”

Green Party chairwoman Claudia Roth feared for the credibility of Germany’s intelligence apparatus in the face of the latest reports. With each new exposure of the collaboration between the NSA and German intelligence agencies, the trust of citizens in the state was “continuing to slip,” she said.

The response of the Left Party was particularly dishonest. Left Party domestic expert Jan Korte called on the German government to end these “highly unconstitutional activities.” At the same time, the Left Party’s representatives on the PKG have covered up this behaviour.

The domestic intelligence service is now clearly planning to expand its surveillance of the population. The BfV is currently testing the XKeyscore programme. With this, it is possible to spy on all of a person’s Internet activity from just one e-mail address, according to Edward Snowden, and this can even be done in real time. If the BfV integrates the software into its regular operations, it will share the results directly with the NSA. This was the commitment made by BfV chief Maaßen during a visit to the United States early this year.

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