German intelligence agency spied its own branch

Bild claims BND practiced internal surveillance practices

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

German newspaper Bild claimed on Sunday that staff from the German intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) gathered information from their own branch on behalf of the US National Security Agency (NSA).

According to Bild, the BND received information in 2006 claiming the NSA was spying on the Franco-German aerospace and defense corporations European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and Eurocopter using BND staff who were spying on behalf of the NSA.

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.

Although German prosecutors opened an investigation on the tapping of Merkel’s phone, the case was closed because the documents released by Snowden did not provide sufficient “evidence of surveillance” to continue the case.

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 that the NSA had 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 Der 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.”

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.

Trojan horse in Merkel’s computer

It has been revealed that there was a cyber-attack which resulted in the leakage of some data from the German parliament (Bundestag) in May.

The attack was initially noticed by IT staff at the Bundestag when two computers affected by malicious software attempted to transfer data to a server in Eastern Europe.

Following the incident technicians discovered that many computers in the Bundestag were infected with the Trojan malware.

According to Der Spiegel, technicians managed to track source codes and are now suspicious that the Kremlin is responsible for the attack.

Bild meanwhile reported that Chancellor Merkel’s computer was being used during to spread viruses to the Bundestag computers to leak data.

The claims of the German newspaper have not been confirmed yet by any government officials.

BND officials to be reorganised

BND chief Gerhard Schindler has decided to relocate BND officials and reorganise the agency to prevent another spying scandal like NSA.

The German Süddeutsche Zeitung claimed that Schindler wanted to move 6,500 BND agents back to “central control,” and restructure the agency through new advisors.

The German parliamentary committee questioned Schindler in early June over allegations that the agency spied on European officials for the NSA.

In response to the accusations, Schindler said that the NSA is a partner which is crucial in helping the BND to prevent threats to national security.

Schindler stressed that if the German parliament blocks the BND’s cooperation with NSA, the BND will not be able to protect Germany against national and international threats.

TRTWorld and agencies