Germany’s national intelligence agency secretly traded information with the U.S. National Security Agency in return for gaining access to a powerful software surveillance program, according to a newspaper report.
Germany’s domestic spying agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution or Bundesverfassungsschutz, agreed to share targeted surveillance data on its citizens with the NSA in April 2013, according to a report in German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.
In exchange, the German intelligence agency was given access to use a U.S. software known as XKeyscore, which the NSA once described in a training manual as its “widest-reaching” Internet surveillance system.
The disclosure comes at a time when relations between the United States and Germany have come under strain over revelations of unauthorized spying.
Reports of widespread spying on German citizens disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and the NSA’s tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone have angered Germans and fed calls for a rethink of the country’s relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies, which have staff and sophisticated listening posts in Germany.
The relationship has taken on a political dimension, as Ms. Merkel’s domestic political opponents in Germany have used the reports to portray her as too accommodating to or the unwitting tool of U.S. interests. The latest disclosure is bound to add to the drumbeat of anti-American rhetoric in the German press.
Die Zeit in its report said it had obtained confidential documents between the German and U.S. spying agencies outlining the controversial cooperation.
In a signed memorandum on the deal seen by the paper, the German intelligence agency vowed “to the maximum extent possible [to] share all data relevant to the NSA’s mission.”
Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, also signed on to the deal, the paper said.
The partnership appears to have been brokered with little external or political oversight, the newspaper wrote in a story published on its website.