Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner confirmed that a legal complaint has been lodged over suspicions that Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) intelligence agency helped the United States National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on European companies and authorities.
“Today we have filed a legal complaint with the prosecutor’s office against an unknown entity due to secret intelligence services to Austria’s disadvantage,” said Mikl-Leitner on Tuesday.
Austria lodged a complaint following a report released in Germany late last month claiming that BND spied on France and the European Union on behalf of the US.
Although Mikl-Leitner stated the government has no solid evidence, she said, “It’s not far-fetched to suspect that Austria was also spied on.”
The BND has been engrossed in a scandal with the NSA ever since US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed details of widespread spying by the NSA in 2013.
Despite the cooperation agreement between the two intelligence agencies, even German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone conversations were monitored by the NSA in a joint operation with the British spy service GCHQ.
A CIA official based at the US embassy in Berlin was later expelled after another leaked report which surfaced last July stated that a number of German officials were spied on behalf of the NSA.
Merkel to testify
German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered to give evidence to lawmakers in the parliament on Wednesday to clear up the allegations, after coalition partner Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD revealed he had twice asked her if German companies had been targeted in the scandal.
"I will testify and answer questions where necessary and that would be in the parliamentary inquiry if desired. I'm happy to do that," Merkel told Radio Bremen, while declining to provide a list of IP addresses, internet search terms or mobile phone numbers passed on to the NSA.
On Monday, Merkel also defended the BND claiming that it was crucial for the intelligence agency to work with the US to fight against international terrorism.
“This ability to carry out its duties in the face of international terrorism threats is done in cooperation with other intelligence agencies, and that includes first and foremost the NSA,” said Merkel.
The scandal appears to have strained the relationship between Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats and the centre-left SPD after Vice Chancellor Gabriel called for a "thorough inquiry" upon discovering Merkel had lied to him over the spy allegations when she denied German companies had been targeted by the BND.
Merkel, however, brushed off claims the coalition is on the verge of splitting, saying the two parties are "working very, very well together.”