Germany to probe spy services' ties with US
Updated: 2013-07-23 09:52
BERLIN - The German government announced a plan on Monday to look into the ties between its secret services and the United States intelligence agencies following mounting pressure as media reported over the weekend that Germany's intelligence services used a spying program of the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Merkel's spokesman Georg Streiter promised a "comprehensive review" into the claims made by Der Spiegel magazine that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the German domestic intelligence agency, was equipped with a program called XKeyScore that is a "productive espionage tool".
The report, citing leaked secret documents from the US intelligence service, said the tool is intended to "expand their ability to support NSA as we jointly prosecute CT (counterterrorism) targets," adding that the foreign intelligence service (BND) is tasked with instructing the domestic intelligence agency on how to use the program.
Germany's domestic intelligence service has said it was only testing the software and did not put it into full operation.
The spokesman said the chief of staff of the chancellery Ronald Pofalla has initiated an extensive review and probe results will be presented between Wednesday and Friday to the parliament's secret services oversight committee.
Streiter said the government takes very seriously the questions that arise from the weekend media coverage, reiterating that "German law applies on German soil, and that goes for everyone, including our intelligence services".
But he also noted that secret services operate out of the public eye, saying that international terrorism can only be fought through international cooperation.
The spying scandal started with a recent report by Der Spiegel that cited classified documents disclosed by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying that Washington was monitoring phone calls and Internet data connections in Germany. The report sparked widespread outcry in privacy-sensitive Germany.
Facing increasing political pressure, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters during a press conference last Friday that questions on the Prism spying program had been submitted to the United States and that Berlin was waiting for answers, while reiterating that "German laws must be abided by on German territory." She also said Germany is not a surveillance state.
The German opposition parties have been criticizing Chancellor Merkel's coalition government over its handling of the United States' massive surveillance program in Germany, as the public outrage shows no signs of abating with the looming general elections in September.
However, the spying scandal has not seemed to affect Merkel's popular status in Germany on the eve of general elections. A recent opinion poll by public broadcaster ZDF showed that 62 percent of respondents still support Merkel as the preferred chancellor.