A new report released by Die Zeit Online claims the German intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) provided the US spy service National Security Agency (NSA) with phone and text message data on a monthly basis.
All together, the BND provided the NSA with approximately 1.3 billion pieces of metadata per month of contact detail information and call times, the report states, but the content of conversations were not revealed.
The data provided to the NSA particularly concentrated on foreign communications in crisis-hit parts of the world, the German news portal reported, citing an unnamed BND official.
Asked for a response to the claims, a BND spokeswoman refused to comment, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week defended the agency’s cooperation with the NSA, saying it was done "to the best of their knowledge and in good conscience."
The BND came under fire after a report in Bild recently revealed officials spied on France and the European Union on behalf of the NSA from its monitoring station at Bad Aibling in southern Bavaria.
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.
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 Chancellor 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 previously reported 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.”
Under fire 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.