In a shocking new set of revelations about how Germany is involved in cooperating with the NSA’s Prism program, newspaper Die Zeit has gained information from secret German intelligence documents leaked from the BND (Germany’s version of the NSA).
The Snowden-like leaks that Zeit online has managed to get its hands on are evidence that Snowden’s brave leap into the unknown has indeed spawned a new generation of pro-privacy whistle blowers who are following in Snowdens footsteps, and are helping to uncover the depth and breadth of illegal government spying operations.
The documents show that five BND agency locations in Germany are involved in collecting metadata via both cable and satellite communications, and investigations by the Bundestag (German parliament) show that as many as 220 million pieces of metadata are being mined daily.
As is the case with the NSA’s spy program, the BND wants to pass off the data mining as insignificant to the average person, but of great importance to national security, by emphasizing the fact that all of the intercepted metadata is of foreign origin. In other words, it is of interest to national security because it involves communication between a foreigner and someone in Germany.
However the scale of the data mining is staggering, and the fact that the documents reveal there is a huge free flow (500 million pieces of metadata are passed on monthly from BND to NSA) of information from the BND to the NSA and the CIA, is obviously going to be worrisome to the German people who are notoriously, and perhaps at times disproportionately, pro privacy.
Of course, Germany is well strategically positioned to spy effectively on the US’s enemies, and when you start to consider that the Association of the German Internet Industry‘s traffic control center in Frankfurt is the largest in Europe, and handles emails, phone calls, text messages and other internet correspondences (such as Facebook and Skype) from regions of interest such as Russia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, it is not tough to see why the BND is working hard at sifting through this metadata using keywords and sharing these results with its allies in the NSA.
Although the BND would love for these new revelations to be swept back under the table so that they can continue to expand the scope of the agency (Gerhard Schindler asked the German Parliament for a five year 100 million euros investment boost only 2 years ago), it is unlikely they will be going away in a hurry. This is because even though the BND keeps claiming that the metadata is just routine traffic, and that it is not doing anything illegal. In reality ‘Metadata’, is far from routine. General Counsel Stewart Baker has been quoted as saying that,
“Metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content,”
… while former CIA director Michael Hayden has revealed that metadata is used to order drone strikes that kill people. Not nearly as un-nefarious, then, as the BND would like to have the German people believe.