Chancellor Angela Merkel defended Germany’s intelligence cooperation with the U.S. amid allegations that German spies helped the National Security Agency collect information on allies.
“The government will do everything to guarantee the capability of the intelligence services,” Merkel told reporters on Monday. “Considering terrorist threats, that capability can only happen in cooperation with other agencies. That very much includes the NSA, among others.”
Merkel’s rebuttal is her latest attempt to deal with two years of revelations about NSA mass surveillance, including the alleged tapping of her mobile phone, that have caused outrage in Germany and led to the departure of the top U.S. intelligence officer in Berlin last July.
With opposition parties and newspapers editorials demanding answers, Merkel pointed to a parliamentary inquiry on NSA global surveillance. Steffen Seibert, her chief spokesman, said Monday she would testify to the committee if asked.
The latest revelations began with a Der Spiegel report on April 23 that the NSA had used the network of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, or BND, to collect information on French officials as well as European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co.
Within hours, Merkel’s office issued a statement rebuking the BND for “deficiencies.” Airbus Group NV, which was formerly known as EADS, said last week it was filing a criminal complaint citing possible industrial espionage.
Pushing back, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Monday that a document that surfaced in the chancellery when he was Merkel’s chief of staff didn’t prove the NSA exploited the BND.
“In 2008, there was no report containing concrete evidence of NSA abuse, rather it was about not expanding a certain form of cooperation with the NSA in an effort to avoid just such exploitation,” he told a conference in Berlin.
De Maiziere will testify Wednesday at a parliamentary oversight hearing. Opposition parties are demanding information, including a list of suspect “selectors” -- identifiers such as phone numbers and IP addresses -- allegedly fed by the NSA into the BND’s network.
BND President Gerhard Schindler also defended cooperation with other spy services.
“The BND works for German interests, for Germany and nobody else,” he said at the Berlin conference.
Merkel echoed her statement that allies shouldn’t turn their intelligence services on each other, one of her responses to reports in October 2013 that an NSA signals intelligence team had hacked into her mobile phone.
“I still consider the proposition that friends mustn’t spy on one another an important one,” Merkel said in response to a reporter’s question. “I think the answer to that should be that such things don’t happen.”