German citizens’ communication data passed to NSA: Report

BERLIN, Oct 6:  Germany’s external intelligence service BND had snooped into the Internet and telephone communications of millions of German citizens and passed on their data to top American spy agency NSA, media reports said.
The BND cooperated quite extensively with the US spy agency between 2004 and 2008 in a project code­named “operation Eikonal” and systematically monitored domestic and global Internet and telephone traffic through one of the world’s largest telecommunication hubs in Frankfurt.
Large amounts of data collected were transferred to the NSA, TV networks NDR and WDR as well as Munich daily Sued Deutsche Zeitung reported over the weekend.
A special computer programme was supposed to filter out the data of German users from the global data transfer to avoid violation of the country’s laws.
However, that did not function properly and thereby allowed continued flow of their data to the NSA, the reports said quoting top secret documents.
Germany and the US had agreed to boost cooperation between their intelligence services shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York in September 2001.
The BND and the NSA signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ in April 2002 to work together in the area of surveillance and storage of Internet and telephone data.
Intelligence gathered were intended to trackdown al-Qaeda, Taliban militants in Afghanistan and to monitor the situation in crisis-hit North Africa, the reports said.
German Foreign Minister Frank­Walter Steinmeier, who was in charge of the intelligence services at the time, approved the cooperation between the BND and the NSA.
However, the Social Democrat (SPD)­Green party coalition government in Berlin at that time denied the NSA direct access to the Frankfurt communication hub.
The NSA made available to the BND a special computer programme for the surveillance at the Frankfurt hub, which was a precursor to NSA’s controversial ‘Prism’ and ‘XKeyscore’ programmes for large­scale surveillance, which were exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year, it said.
The BND, which had access to the Frankfurt hub code­named ‘De­Cox,’ admitted in the past it used NSA’s surveillance programmes to monitor and gather data, but denied that confidential data of German citizens were handed over to the Americans in large quantities.
However, classified BND documents made available to a German parliamentary panel investigating the NSA surveillance of German citizens and the cooperation between the two spy agencies exposed by Snowden showed that the data of German citizens also were transferred to the NSA in violation of the country’s laws, the reports said.
In an assessment of the “operation Eikonal,” which was suspended in 2008, the BND admitted that a “complete and flawless” sorting out of German and foreign telecommunication was not possible, according to the documents. (PTI)

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