Germans Spied on Allies, NGOs

How do you say schadenfreude in German again?

It turns out that Germany’s bitter complaints about its allies’ spying (particularly the U.S.) has been revealed as rank hypocrisy. The German government itself has been spying on allies, including the U.S., and it has done so much more intensively than has been revealed previously. Spiegel:

Three weeks ago, news emerged that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), had systematically spied on friends and allies around the world. In many of those instances, the BND had been doing so of its own accord and not at the request of the NSA. The BND came under heavy criticism earlier this year after news emerged that it had assisted the NSA in spying on European institutions, companies and even Germans using dubious selector data.

SPIEGEL has since learned from sources that the spying went further than previously reported. Since October’s revelations, it has emerged that the BND spied on the United States Department of the Interior and the interior ministries of EU member states including Poland, Austria, Denmark and Croatia. The search terms used by the BND in its espionage also included communications lines belonging to US diplomatic outposts in Brussels and the United Nations in New York. The list even included the US State Department’s hotline for travel warnings.

The German intelligence service’s interest wasn’t restricted to state institutions either: It also spied on non-governmental organizations like Care International, Oxfam and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. In Germany, the BND’s own selector lists included numerous foreign embassies and consulates. The e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and fax numbers of the diplomatic representations of the United States, France, Great Britain, Sweden, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and even the Vatican were all monitored in this way. Diplomatic facilities are not covered under Article 10 of Germany’s constitution, the Basic Law, which protects German telecommunications participants from such surveillance.

Americans can be excused if they indulge in a certain amount of gloating here. It’s always nice to see the neighborhood scold exposed as a hypocrite.

But scoring a few points shouldn’t be the U.S. goal. Both America and Germany need each other. Both have common interests in the successful development of Europe and the furthering of peace and prosperity in Asia, as well as in successfully tackling the crises smoldering to the continent’s south and east. Perhaps these revelations can serve as the basis for a new and deeper conversation, with less finger pointing and more serious purpose.

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