Several new Snowden-leaked documents show how closely Germany’s intelligence agencies work with the NSA. But did the German government deliberately soften laws protecting privacy to make life easier for them?
This week German news magazine Der Spiegel published the largest single set of files leaked by whistleblower and former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The roughly 50 documents show the depth of the German intelligence agencies’ collusion with the NSA.
They suggest that the German Intelligence Agency (BND), the country’s foreign spy agency, and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the German domestic spy agency, worked more closely with the NSA than they have admitted – and more than many observers thought.
The documents as published by Der Spiegel offer glimpses, but not a comprehensive view of what is essentially a transatlantic spy alliance. An NSA document from January 2013 shows the spirit of cooperation that existed between the NSA and first the BND and then the BfV, as well as the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). The documents also show that the BND has been “eager” for closer ties with the NSA on an analytical and operational level since 1962.
Among its “success stories,” the documents praise how the German government was able to weaken the public’s protection from surveillance. “The German government has changed its interpretation of the G10 law, which protects German citizens’ communications, to allow the BND to be more flexible with the sharing of protected information with foreign partners.” Germany’s G10 law regulates in what circumstances its intelligence agencies are allowed to break Article 10 of the German constitution, which guarantees the privacy of letters and telecommunications.