A report released in Germany has claimed the country’s intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) spied on France and the European Union on behalf of the United States from its monitoring station at Bad Aibling in southern Bavaria.
According to leaked documents published in Bild, the BND targeted both the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Palace of France, as well as the European Commission in Brussels.
A number of European firms, including Airbus and Eurocopter, were also spied on at the request of Washington’s National Security Agency (NSA) to check if they were abiding by trade embargoes.
All cooperation between the two agencies was carried out within the framework of an intelligence sharing agreement which was signed in 2002.
Even though the report indicates the German government had been aware of spying on European arms firms since 2008, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who was in charge of the Chancellery from 2005-09, denied any knowledge of a cover-up, but at the same time said the report should be discussed by a parliamentary committee.
"It was definitely known for years in the chancellery that the NSA tried, with German help, to monitor German companies," the report in Bild stated, quoting a German parliament inquiry committee.
"It is unlikely and would be highly unusual if the head of the chancellery would not have been informed about such an occurrence."
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 had spied on behalf of the NSA.
Spiegel Online also reported last week the NSA has provided the BND mail addresses and mobile phone numbers of individuals they were collecting information on after the interior ministry said it had “no knowledge of alleged economic espionage by the NSA or other US agencies in other countries” in response to a question posed by the opposition Linke (Left Party).
The Spiegel report, however, led to the German Chancellery issuing a statement saying it is “now checking whether parliamentary answers in this case remain totally valid.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Interior Minister de Maiziere said he is willing to “face up” to his responsibilities and “contribute to explaining the case,” but he is not able to speak publicly on the matter.
Up to 800,000 German citizens including politicians were among the list of names provided to the BND by the NSA, another report in Die Zeit stated.
Last year, it was also revealed by former US Air Force drone pilot Brandon Bryant that the US military had been using its Ramstein Air Base in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate as the headquarters of its controversial predator drones programme.
The US, however, denied its base in Germany were being used to carry out targeted killings in Africa, Yemen, and Pakistan.