Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark
March 30, 2014
Documents show that Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service infiltrated German Internet firms and America’s NSA obtained a court order to spy on Germany and collected information about the chancellor in a special database. Is it time for the country to open a formal espionage investigation?
The headquarters of Stellar, a company based in the town of Hürth near Cologne, are visible from a distance. Seventy-five white antennas dominate the landscape. The biggest are 16 meters (52 feet) tall and kept in place by steel anchors. It is an impressive sight and serves as a popular backdrop for scenes in TV shows, including the German action series “Cobra 11.”
Stellar operates a satellite ground station in Hürth, a so-called “teleport.” Its services are used by companies and institutions; Stellar’s customers include Internet providers, telecommunications companies and even a few governments. “The world is our market,” is the high-tech company’s slogan.
Using their ground stations and leased capacities from satellites, firms like Stellar — or competitors like Cetel in the nearby village of Ruppichteroth or IABG, which is headquartered in Ottobrunn near Munich — can provide Internet and telephone services in even the most remote areas. They provide communications links to places like oil drilling platforms, diamond mines, refugee camps and foreign outposts of multinational corporations and international organizations.