Germany recently has had good reason for its contentious attitude toward the NSA. Revelations by Edward Snowden fixed blame on the agency for spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel. Now, in an article published by Der Spiegel this week, more fuel is added to the fire while raising eyebrows and some interesting questions.
The German magazine reports that documents provided by Snowden ’ paint a picture of an all-powerful American intelligence agency that has developed an increasingly intimate relationship with Germany over the past 13 years while massively expanding its presence. No other country in Europe plays host to a secret NSA surveillance architecture like the one in Germany… In 2007, the NSA claimed to have at least a dozen active collection sites in Germany.” The NSA, as alluded to earlier, came under fire over the Merkel cellphone eavesdropping fiasco. But the latest news prompts questions about the agency’s cozy relationship with the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German alter-ego of the NSA.
It warrants examination as to whether the BND is violating constitutional protections on privacy for Germans. According to Der Spiegel, the Snowden documents show that ’ the exchange of data, spying tools and know-how is much more intense than previously thought. It makes one wonder whether the BND was complicit somehow in the spying on Merkel. The story exposes the expansion of operations of the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS), a joint endeavor with the CIA to collect communications. Two of the 80 global SCS stations are located in Germany.
The NSA’s most important listening station in Europe, near Wiesbaden housed about 240 analysts as late as 2011. It is aptly named the ’Dagger Complex” or, officially, the European Center for Cryptology. Here the NSA uses the latest equipment to analyze data streams. One special program, Xkeycore, aims at comprehensive tracking of Internet traffic, according to Spiegel.
The key facility in Germany is also located in Wiesbaden in Building 4009 also known as the ’Storage Station”. Known officially as the European Technical Center, it is the NSA’s primary communications hub in Europe. From here they intercept massive amounts of data and forward it to ’NSAers, warfighters and foreign partners in Europe, Africa and the Middle East,” according to the documents. An even larger facility is under construction nearby in the city of Clay Kaserne, a US military complex. It is called the Consolidated Intelligence Center and is being built at a cost of $124 million. With such a widespread presence in Germany which has grown over the years, it should come as little surprise that its government leaders are being spied upon.
But maybe now the time is ripe for collective voices to be raised and the NSA to be held accountable lest German hospitality fades. The German public has a right to know exactly what the NSA is doing in Germany. It should be given the opportunity to draw its own conclusions about the extent of the agency’s activities in the country. It should also be made aware of the scope of its cooperation with German agencies in the area of surveillance. This story paints a picture of an all-powerful American intelligence agency that has developed an increasingly intimate relationship with Germany since 9/11 and an increasing appetite for information- more often private information.
No other country in Europe hosts a secret NSA surveillance architecture comparable to the German facilities. According to paragraph 99 of Germany’s criminal code, spying is illegal on German soil. Yet the NSA’s activities persist. And if it weren’t for Snowden’s disclosures the public and Angela Merkel would have been clueless about the snooping. The US has, as yet not responded to German questions raised on the debacle. Perhaps its time for a complete airing of the grievances and an appropriate US response from the Obama administration. It is time that the era of ’perpetual domination”, to quote German historian Josef Foschepoth, by the US which has existed since WWII comes to an end.