The British and US secret services have been accused of bugging the telephone lines of German government agencies and ministries. London and Washington are also alleged to have spied on a top EU official.
In the latest revelations over US and British spying on Friday, both the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the British General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ, pictured) were alleged to have carried out surveillance on targets in Brussels and Berlin.
Information leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden included a list of hundreds of potential targets for spying. The documents did not show whether or not the numbers were monitored and, in the event that they were, for how long and how intensively.
The details were revealed by the German news magazine, Spiegel, as well as the New York Times and the British newspaper, The Guardian.
The list included the access code to a German government database with links to several government ministries. The former number of the German embassy in Rwanda was also included on the list.
The vice president of the European Commission, Joaquin Almunia, was also on the list. Almunia, Brussels’ competition commissioner, is responsible for overseeing anti-monopoly investigations and has been involved in a long-running competition case involving the Internet giant Google.
The commission said that, if true, the news that one of its senior officials had been targeted would be “unacceptable.”
“This piece of news follows a series of other revelations which, as we clearly stated in the past, if proven true, are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation,” a spokesman said.
“This is not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states.”
‘No help for private firms’
An NSA spokeswoman denied allegations that the agency used espionage to help US businesses.
“We do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” the spokeswoman said.
“The intelligence community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities, are critical to providing policy-makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security.”
The German government made no initial comment on the allegations.
Also on the list were businesses including the French oil company Total, and the French medical charity, Medecins du Monde.
At a White House news conference, US President Barack Obama said he would spend the coming weeks looking at the recommendations of a presidential advisory panel on how to rein in the NSA.
Obama said some bulk phone data collected by intelligence agencies might be kept by private companies rather than the government. However, Obama said that Washington was not prepared to “unilaterally disarm” when it came to gathering information. US security officials maintain that their own agencies are subject to spying by allies, including European nations.
“As important and as necessary as this debate has been, it is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage to US intelligence capabilities and US diplomacy,” said Obama.
rc/lw (AFP, AP, Reuters)