A report has revealed that German intelligence services themselves used one of US National Security Agency’s most valuable spying programs.
The new information was published by German weekly Spiegel on Sunday and was based on secret documents from the US intelligence service.
This report comes as another blow to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers, who all claim that they first learned about the NSA spying programs from press reports.
The documents show that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, and its domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), both used an NSA surveillance program called XKeyScore.
The obtained documents also revealed that the XKeyScore program collected the major part of the up to 500 million phone calls and data activities monitored monthly by the NSA.
The XKeyScore program is able to reveal retroactively any terms the target person has typed into a search engine through collected metadata, i.e. information about which data connections were made and when, according to an internal NSA presentation from 2008.
The system is also capable of receiving a “full take” of all unfiltered data over a period of several days, including contents of communications.
Furthermore, the secret documents show that the BND head, Gerhard Schindler, had an “eagerness and desire” for Germany’s intelligence agencies to intensify cooperation with the NSA.
“The BND has been working to influence the German government to relax interpretation of the privacy laws to provide greater opportunities of intelligence sharing,” the NSA stated in January.
Elsewhere in the document, the NSA said that in Afghanistan the BND had proved to be the agency’s “most prolific partner” when it came to information gathering.
Moreover, the documents show that a 12-member high-level BND delegation was invited to the NSA at the end of April to meet with various experts on “data acquisition”, just a few weeks before first revelations by the NSA surveillance programs by Edward Snowden were published.
In June, Snowden, an American former technical contractor for the NSA and a former employee of the CIA, leaked documents showing the US spied on the European Union and monitored up to a half-billion German telephone calls and internet activities each month.