Germany ends spy treaty with US, UK, in response to Snowden leaks
August 5, 2013 10 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The German government has announced the termination of a Cold-War era surveillance cooperation treaty with the United States and the United Kingdom in response to revelations made by American defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former computer expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), has been given political asylum in Russia. Earlier this summer, he told German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that the United States spies on the communications of Germany and other European Union countries with the same intensity it spies on China or Iraq. In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Snowden also revealed the existence of Project TEMPORA, operated by Britain’s foremost signals intelligence agency, the General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Snowden told the paper that GCHQ collected and stored massive quantities of foreign telephone call data and email messages, many of them from Germany, and shared them with its US counterpart, the NSA. On Friday, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guido Westerwelle, issued a statement saying that the government in Berlin had decided to scrap a longstanding surveillance cooperation agreement with Western countries in response to Snowden’s revelations. The agreement was signed in 1968 between the governments of West Germany, the US, UK, and France. It gave Western countries with military bases on West German soil the right to conduct surveillance operations in Germany in support of their military presence there. In the statement, Foreign Minister Westerwelle argued that the cancellation of the surveillance agreement was “a necessary and proper consequence of the recent debate about protecting personal privacy”. But the Associated Press news agency quoted an unnamed German government source as saying that the surveillance pact had not been invoked in over 20 years, and that its annulment was a “largely symbolic” move by Berlin. The source added that the cancellation of the agreement would have “no impact” on current intelligence-sharing arrangements between Germany, the US and the UK. The Associated Press also quoted a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson as saying that the canceled agreement had been “a loose end from a previous era” and had remained practically dormant since the end of the Cold War. The report also cited Dr. Henninng Riecke, head of the German Council on Foreign Relations’ Transatlantic Relations Program. He argued that Germany had to “do something to demonstrate at home that it was taking the issue seriously”, while at the same time letting “the Americans know [its response was] not going to hurt them”.