© Saul Loeb / AFP
Germany’s intelligence agency spied on high-profile US targets, including the White House, the State Department and the military for almost a decade, Spiegel has reported. Even US-based international organizations such as the IMF and HRW were on the watchlist.
The Spiegel report comes four years after Chancellor Angela Merkel famously said “spying on friends” was unacceptable, when commenting on the National Security Agency spy row that had put a strain on ties at the time.
In 2013, it was revealed the chancellor’s mobile had been “monitored” by the NSA as part of systematic wiretapping operations worldwide.
This time, Spiegel reports that the German government is likely to find itself in hot water as its BND intelligence service wiretapped numerous targets in the US between 1998 and 2006, according to the documents accessed by the magazine.
The US Treasury Department, the Department of State, and even the White House were on the BND spy list. In total, around 4,000 search words – known as ‘selectors’ – were used by German intelligence with regard to the US.
The BND also intercepted phone, fax and email communications of critical American corporations such as Lockheed Martin, believed to be the world’s largest defense contractor in terms of revenue, as well as NASA. The US military was not spared either, with the US Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency also apparently on the radar of the BND.
It also received “follow-up data” from well over 100 foreign embassies in Washington and international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Washington office of the Arab League, the German magazine said.
In 2013, Merkel said US mass surveillance on German communications, including her own mobile phone, was “unacceptable.” That also applied “for every citizen in Germany,” the leader added.
Two years later, in 2015, WikiLeaks revealed the NSA wire-tapped phone calls involving Merkel and her closest aides for years and spied on the staff of her predecessors. Some 125 phone numbers of top German officials were also on the list of long-term surveillance.
However, German intelligence did not act in vain either, according to previous Spiegel reports. Since 2000, the BND spied not only on Interpol headquarters in the French city of Lyon, but also on a number of the organization’s liaison offices located in Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Italy and the US, the magazine reported in May.
Another story from the magazine – also based on obtained documents – alleged that the intelligence service regularly snooped on more than 50 phone and fax numbers as well as email addresses of journalists and editorial offices of various news media outlets around the world since 1999.
The list featured contacts of BBC journalists in Afghanistan, the BBC central office in London and the office of the BBC World Service, as well as mobile phone numbers of Reuters journalists and offices in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria as well as a contact of the New York Times office in Afghanistan.
Founded by former Nazi General Reinhard Gehlen and top SS intelligence officers in 1956, the BND also came into the spotlight in 2014, when Edward Snowden’s revelations suggested that the agency effectively ran Europe-wide wiretapping operations on behalf of the NSA and the CIA. The news prompted a scandal in Germany and a respective investigation by the Bundestag.