Prism scandal

Is Germany a victim of the NSA, or an accomplice?

Published on 13 August 2013 at 14:18

Berlin and Washington have drawn the consequences of the PRISM affair and are seeking an agreement following revelations that Germany has been under surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA), reports German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Discussions aimed at banning espionage between the two countries in the future are scheduled at the end of August between Gerhard Schindler, the head of the German Foreign Intelligence Service (BND), and his US counterparts.

Former NSA employee-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently sought by the US, revealed that 500 million pieces of personal data were intercepted each month in Germany with the collaboration of the BND.

The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, is seeking to measure the extent of the NSA’s actions and the BND’s involvement, and will also investigate if the government was aware of what was happening. Ronald Pofalla, chief of staff of the German chancellery and responsible for the secret services, was questioned by the Secret Services Monitoring Commission of the Bundestag on August 12. The paper explains that he “made an effort to give the impression that there is no espionage affair” by claiming that the US did not systematically spy on Germans and that Washington and London gave written assurances that they respected German laws. The commission has not ruled out auditioning cabinet members.

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“This month, the BND and the NSA will begin talks on an agreement,” notes German daily Die Tageszeitung. The paper wonders, however,

who will be protected from spying by the United States, German citizens or the BND? One can hope that it will be the former, but Pofalla did not go into details of the measures envisioned.

With legislative elections just five weeks away, the scandal is having a major impact on the election campaign. German weekly Der Spiegel accuses Chancellor Angela Merkel of having been aware of the NSA’s activities and of shouldering the blame onto the Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was the chancellery’s chief of staff in 2002.

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