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.
The German Federal Intelligence Service stopped sharing internet surveillance data with the NSA on Monday.
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. The NSA has reportedly refused to comply with the security request due to short notice. Washington has not yet commented on the issue. Nevertheless, the BND will continue to garner telephone calls and fax messages for Washington as this service falls under a different agreement.
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. 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.”
She added that it was imperative both agencies continue cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and want to provide social security, but reiterated that it’s unacceptable to spy on friendly nations. 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 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, 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.