On Thursday, German parliamentary committee questioned the President of the German intelligence service (the BND) Gerhard Schindler over allegations that the agency spied on European officials for the US National Security Agency (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.
In front of the German Bundestag committee investigation the allegations 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.
“The NSA is our partner, not our opponent. We are dependent on the NSA, not the other way around," he said.
"These developments cause me great worry, as they will ultimately call into question the ability of this service to function in the future. We cannot do our job without international cooperation."
Schindler accepted that the BND made some mistakes in the cooperation process, such as not questioning the names that the NSA wanted to monitor from the BND’s Bad Aibling facility.
Although the BND facility in Bad Aibling primarily monitored Somali and Afghan data, the NSA used the facility to gather information on European companies and government officials.
Schindler said that although BND officials first realised that they were monitoring European companies in 2010 and 2011, he was not informed on their inquiry until 2013. He added that officials stepped into action because of the “heavy-reliance” of BND on the NSA.
Although the parliamentary committee called for the release of NSA watchlists by the BND, 62 percent of Germans do not believe Chancellor Merkel is sincerely trying to shed light on the BND’s secret cooperation with the NSA, according to a poll by public television broadcaster ARD.
The party members in the parliamentary committee wanted the government to release the NSA lists. The committee stated that the decision will be made according to the government’s decision on whether to release the lists or not.
Last week New York’s US federal appeals court decided that the collection of phone records by the NSA is illegal.
While the White House administration wants to reform the NSA programme, the US Senate will decided whether to reform the programme or expanding it on Saturday.
The BND has been engrossed in a scandal with the NSA ever since US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed details of widespread spying by the organisation in 2013.
Despite the cooperation agreement between the two intelligence agencies, even Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone conversations were monitored by the NSA in 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 surfaced last July stating that a number of German officials had spied on behalf of the NSA.
Spiegel Online also previously reported the NSA had provided the BND with 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 party Die Linke.
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.”
Under fire, Interior Minister de Maiziere said he is willing to “face up” to his responsibilities and “contribute to explaining the case,” but that 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 was being used to carry out targeted killings in Africa, Yemen, and Pakistan.