Efforts to spy on friends and allies by Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, were more extensive than previously thought, according to a report in Der Spiegel magazine’s online edition.
Three weeks ago, it was revealed that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) had been spying on friends and allies around the world and not at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency, Der Spiegel said. It has since emerged that the BND spied on the U.S. Department of the Interior and the interior ministries of EU member states including Poland, Austria, Denmark and Croatia.
Reports of German espionage activities directed against its allies are especially embarrassing for Chancellor Angela Merkel because of her government’s angry reaction to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations that the NSA had carried out large-scale surveillance of U.S. allies, including tapping Merkel’s cellphone.
Germany’s intelligence agencies have come in for criticism after news this year that they had indirectly helped the NSA spy on European companies such as the defense manufacturer Airbus.
Privacy is an extremely sensitive issue in Germany because of the activities of the Gestapo in the Nazi era and Communist East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi.
According to the Spiegel report, the BND’s interest wasn’t just restricted to state institutions: It also spied on non-governmental organizations like Care International, Oxfam and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.
The e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and fax numbers of the diplomatic representations of the United States, France, Great Britain, Sweden, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and even the Vatican were all being monitored.
Merkel’s Chancellery, which is in charge of overseeing the intelligence agencies, informed the Bundestag’s Parliamentary Control Panel in October that the BND had been watching the institutions of numerous European countries and other partners for many years.