Saturday, September 18, 2021

German secret service spied on global media

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in the focus of cameramen and photographers as she waits on February 16, 2017 in Berlin to face a closed-door hearing by a parliamentary enquiry looking into revelations of the sweeping surveillance activities of the US intelligence service NSA and into the extent of its cooperation with German’s BND foreign intelligence service.

Germany’s foreign intelligence service BND long spied on journalists of the BBC, The New York Times, Reuters and other media, news weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders labelled the alleged surveillance “a monstrous attack on press freedom”, voiced fears the eavesdropping was continuing and said it was planning legal action, according to Der Spiegel.

The magazine, which has worked extensively with US fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and has reported on US and German espionage scandals, cited only documents it had seen.

It reported that the BND had listed at least 50 telephone and fax numbers and email addresses of journalists or newsrooms on its list of “selector” keywords for surveillance since 1999.

A Spiegel journalist told AFP that the list was thought to have covered only part of the BND’s international media targets at the time, and that it was unknown whether surveillance had ceased or was ongoing.

On the list seen by Der Spiegel were several dozen numbers of the British Broadcasting Corporation at its London headquarters and in Afghanistan, as well as of the BBC World Service, it said.

A number used by The New York Times in Afghanistan was also on the list, as were mobile and satellite phone numbers of news agency Reuters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The BND declined to comment, Der Spiegel said in an excerpt of an article to be published in full in its weekly edition which hits news stands Saturday.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed to hear these claims.

“The BBC’s mission is to bring accurate news and information to people around the world and our journalists should be able to operate freely and safely, with full protection for their sources.

“We call upon all governments to respect the operation of a free press.”

Reuters and The New York Times did not immediately reply to requests for comment from AFP.

Germany had reacted with outrage when information leaked by former NSA contractor Snowden revealed in 2013 that US agents were carrying out widespread tapping worldwide, including of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany where state spying on citizens was rampant, declared repeatedly that “spying among friends is not on” while acknowledging Germany’s reliance on the US in security matters.

But to the great embarrassment of Germany, it later emerged that the BND helped the NSA spy on European targets.

Berlin last June approved new measures, including greater oversight, to rein in the BND following the scandal.

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