Secret program gave CIA ‘unfiltered access’ to German communications

CIAThe United States Central Intelligence Agency had direct and unfiltered access to telecommunications data exchanged between German citizens, according to a new document that has surfaced in the German press. The program, codenamed GLOTAIC, was a collaboration between the CIA and Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, known as BND. According to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which revealed the existence of the program last week, it lasted from 2004 to 2006. During those years, the CIA was given access to telephone and fax data carried by US telecommunications provider MCI Communications, which is owned by Verizon. The US-headquartered company owns a network switching facility in the German city of Hilden, located 10 miles east of Düsseldorf near the country’s border with Holland.

The existence of joint collection programs between the BND and American intelligence agencies has been established in the past, and has prompted the creation of a special investigative committee in the German parliament. The Committee of Inquiry into Intelligence Operations was set up in 2014, after files leaked by American defector Edward Snowden revealed that the US had been spying on the telephone communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But it has also been investigating whether the BND’s collaboration with American intelligence agencies violated the rights of German citizens.

The committee had previously been told that all telecommunications data given to the US by German agencies had previously been vetted by BND officers. But the GLOTAIC documents published by Der Spiegel states that audio recordings of intercepted telephone calls were “directly routed to the US” in the interests of technical efficiency. The parliamentary committee had also been told that the data shared with the CIA concerned non-German citizens using German telecommunications networks. But the documents published last week state that a “technical glitch” in the GLOTAIC system allowed “massive German traffic” to be directly accessed by the CIA without having been first filtered by the BND.

Another document published by Spiegel reveals that the BND warned project CLOTAIC supervisors that the agency faced “serious risks” should the secret operation become public, because it had allegedly violated German federal privacy regulations.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 September 2015 | Permalink

German government charges CIA spy with treason

BND GermanyA German intelligence officer, who is accused of spying for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, has been officially charged with treason by authorities in Berlin. The 32-year-old man, identified in court papers only as “Markus R.”, worked as a clerk at the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, Germany’s external intelligence agency. He was arrested in July 2014 on suspicion of having spied for the CIA for approximately two years. German prosecutors say they have evidence that shows Markus R. supplied the American spy agency with around 200 classified German government documents in exchange for around €25,000 —approximately $30,000.

Germany’s Office of the Federal Prosecutor said on Thursday that Markus R. made contact with the CIA in 2008 and offered his services to the American spy agency. He began working for the United States as a double agent soon afterwards. His arrest last year added to the already tense relations between Berlin and Washington. The latter had been damaged a year earlier, when it was revealed that the US National Security Agency, America’s signals intelligence organization, had bugged the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The revelation, which was made public by Edward Snowden, an American defector to Russia who had previously worked for the NSA, showed that Chancellor Merkel had been targeted as part of a wider US spy operation against Germany.

The revelations sparked the establishment in Germany of a nine-member parliamentary committee that was tasked with evaluating Snowden’s revelations and proposing Germany’s response. It appears that Markus R. tried to spy on the activities of the committee on behalf of his American handlers. Soon after Markus R.’s arrest was made public, the German government ordered the immediate removal from Germany of the CIA chief of station –who was essentially the top American intelligence official in the country. Berlin also instructed its intelligence agencies to limit their cooperation with their American counterparts “to the bare essentials” until further notice.

It is worth noting that, before his arrest last year, Markus R. is also said to have approached Russian intelligence with an offer to work for them. He is thus believed to have supplied Moscow with classified German government documents as well.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 August 2015 | Permalink

Germany and Holland investigated Russian physicist for espionage

Eindhoven University of TechnologyThe German and Dutch governments allegedly joined forces to investigate a Russian supercomputer specialist, who studied in Germany and Holland, suspecting him of passing technical information to Russian intelligence. German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which published the report in its current issue, identified the physicist only as “Ivan A.” and said that the 28-year-old man was a member of a physics laboratory affiliated with the Max Planck Institute in the western German city of Bonn. According to Spiegel, Ivan A. studied in Bonn between 2009 and 2011, conducting research on quantum physics and nanophotonics, an area of study that examines the behavior of light on the nanometer scale. Much of the research in this specialized field relates to supercomputers and cutting-edge quantum computing applications.

Citing unnamed government sources, Spiegel said that Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is the country’s top counterintelligence agency, started to monitor the scientist once he began meeting regularly with a Russian diplomat. The diplomat, who was stationed at the consulate of the Russian Federation in Bonn, had been identified by German intelligence as a member of the Russian secret services. German counterintelligence officials thus began suspecting Ivan A. of channeling restricted technical information to Moscow via the Russian diplomat.

However, in 2013 Ivan A. relocated to the Dutch city of Eindhoven to study at the Eindhoven University of Technology, at which point German counterintelligence officers reached out to their Dutch colleagues. During one of his trips from Germany to Holland, Ivan A. was detained for several hours along with this wife at the Düsseldorf International Airport. He was questioned and his personal electronic devices were confiscated. Upon his release Germany and Holland jointly launched against him a formal investigation for espionage. Eventually his European Union residence visa was cancelled and he was expelled by the Dutch government as a danger to national security. Der Spiegel said Ivan A. returned to Russia and today denies that he was a spy.

Espionage scandals frequently rock German-Russian relations. In 2013, a German court convicted a married couple, Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, of having spied for the Soviet Union and Russia since at least 1990. The two had used forged Austrian passports to enter West Germany from Mexico in 1988 and 1990.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 July 2015 | Permalink:

NATO missile system hacked remotely by ‘foreign source’

MIM-104 Patriot missile systemA Patriot missile system stationed in Turkey by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was allegedly hacked by a remote source, according to reports. German magazine Behörden Spiegel said this week that the hacked missile system is owned and operated by the German Army. It was deployed along the Turkish-Syrian border in early 2013, after Ankara requested NATO assistance in protecting its territory from a possible spillover of the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The Patriot surface-to-air missile system was initially built for the United States Army by American defense contractor Raytheon in the 1980s, but has since been sold to many of Washington’s NATO allies, including Germany. The Patriot system consists of stand-alone batteries, each composed of six launchers and two radars. The radars, which are aimed at spotting and targeting incoming missiles, communicate with the launchers via a computer system. The latter was hijacked for a brief period of time by an unidentified hacker, said Behörden Spiegel, adding that the perpetrators of the electronic attack managed to get the missile system to “perform inexplicable commands”. The magazine gave no further details.

Access to the Patriot missile system could theoretically be gained through the computer link that connects the missiles with the battery’s control system, or through the computer chip that guides the missiles once they are launched. Hacking any one of these nodes could potentially allow a perpetrator to disable the system’s interception capabilities by disorienting its radars. Alternatively, a hacker could hypothetically prompt the system to fire its missiles at an unauthorized target. According to Behörden Spiegel, the attack on the missile system could not have come about by accident; it was a concentrated effort aimed at either taking control of the missiles or compromising the battery’s operating system. Moreover, the sophisticated nature of such an attack on a well-protected military system presupposes the availability of infrastructural and monetary resources that only nation-states possess, said the magazine.

Shortly after the Behörden Spiegel article was published, the German Federal Ministry of Defense denied that Patriot missile systems under its command could be hacked. A Ministry spokesman told German newspaper Die Welt that the Ministry was not aware of any such incident having taken place in Turkey or elsewhere.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 July 2015 | Permalink:

German parliament may sue government to access British spy files

Angela Merkel and David CameronA German parliamentary committee investigating spying operations may take the German government to court in order to force it to give up secret documents on Berlin’s intelligence cooperation with Britain. The Committee of Inquiry into Intelligence Operations was set up in 2014, after files leaked by American defector Edward Snowden revealed 1 that the United States had been spying on the telephone communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But the scope of the committee expanded earlier this year, when it emerged that, while being spied upon by the US and Britain, Germany also collaborated 2 with American and British intelligence agencies in order to spy on France and other European countries.

Last week, the German Office of the Federal Prosecutor concluded 3 its criminal investigation into alleged espionage operations by the US National Security Agency against Chancellor Merkel. German officials said they had to drop the probe because of the unwillingness of US government officials to share information on the subject. But the parliamentary committee continues the inquiry on the related subject of Germany’s intelligence cooperation with the Britain and the US. The committee’s chairman, Dr. Patrick Sensburg, said on Thursday that his team of investigators would consider “going to court” in order to force the German government to release all relevant documents. Speaking 4 to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Dr. Sensburg said that the parliamentary inquiry had a right to investigate intelligence cooperation between Berlin and London.

However, as intelNews reported 5 in February, the British government is said to have warned Germany that all intelligence cooperation between the two countries will be terminated should classified information about British intelligence operations be shared with an inquiry. Dr. Sensburg was asked by The Telegraph whether reports of the British warnings were true, but he responded that he was unable to comment on the matter.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 June 2015 | Permalink:

  1. J. FITSANAKIS “US surveillance or Merkel’s phone prompts angry German reaction” intelNews [24oct2013] 
  2. J. FITSANAKIS “Airbus to sue Germany for helping US spy on its operations” intelNews [01may2015] 
  3. T. SCHLEIFER “Germany drops probe into U.S. spying on Merkel” cnn [13jun2015] 
  4. J. HUGGLER “German spy inquiry could demand access to British secrets” The Daily Telegraph [18jun2015] 
  5. J. FITSANAKIS “Britain threatens to stop intelligence cooperation with Germany” intelNews [13feb2015] 

Belgium launches official probe into alleged German-US espionage

BelgacomThe Belgian government has announced the start of an official investigation into allegations that the country’s tele- communications networks were spied on by a consortium of German and American intelligence agencies. A press release issued Friday by the Belgian Ministry of Justice said the minister, Koen Geens, had authorized an examination of claims of espionage by the United States National Security Agency and Germany’s Bundesnach-richtendienst (BND). The statement was referring to EIKONAL, an alleged collaboration between the NSA and the BND, which was revealed last month by Austrian politician Peter Pilz. Pilz told a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, that EIKONAL had targeted European telecommunications carriers for at least four years, from 2005 to 2008. The governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands have already launched their own investigations into EIKONAL.

After speaking with Pilz, Belgian politician Stefaan Van Hecke told Belgian media last month that the BND-NSA consortium had penetrated the network of Proximus, the mobile subsidiary of Belgacom, Belgium’s national telecommunications carrier. Speaking anonymously about the investigation, a Belgian official told the country’s largest French-language newspaper, Sud Presse, that if the alleged espionage is confirmed, it would have “not only legal implications, but will also affect relations between Belgium, Germany and the US”. A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said on Friday that if the allegations of espionage were confirmed “the government would take appropriate action”, but she refused to elaborate.

IntelNews regulars will remember the last time Belgacom surfaced in the news: in 2013, we reported that the company’s technicians had detected an “unidentified virus” that had infected several dozen mainframe computers. The virus specifically targeted telecommunications traffic carried by Belgacom’s international subsidiaries in Africa and the Middle East. Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s Office said at the time that the malware’s complexity, coupled with its grand scale, “pointed towards international state-sponsored cyber espionage”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 8 June 2015 | Permalink:

Switzerland to probe claims it was spied on by US, German agencies

SwisscomThe office of the Swiss Federal Prosecutor has launched an investigation into claims that the country’s largest telecommunications provider was spied on by a consortium of German and American intelligence agencies. The spy project was reportedly a secret collaboration between Germany’s BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) and America’s National Security Agency (NSA). According to Austrian politician Peter Pilz, who made the allegations on Wednesday, the BND-NSA collaboration was codenamed EIKONAL and was active from 2005 to 2008. Speaking during a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, Pilz said many European phone carriers and Internet service providers were targeted by the two agencies.

Among EIKONAL’s targets, said Pilz, was Swisscom AG, Switzerland’s largest telecommunications provider and one of the successor companies to the country’s national carrier, the PTT (short for Post, Telegraph, Telephone). The government of Switzerland still retains a majority of Swisscom shares, which makes the Bern-based company the closest thing Switzerland has to a national telecommunications carrier. Under the EIKONAL agreement, the BND accessed Swisscom traffic through an interception center based in Frankfurt, Germany. From there, said Pilz, the intercepted data was transferred to a BND facility in Bad Aibling to be entered into NSA’s systems. Pilz shared numerous documents at the press conference, among them a list of key transmission lines that included nine Swisscom lines originating from Zurich and Geneva.

Switzerland’s Office of the Federal Prosecutor said on Wednesday that a criminal investigation was already underway into Peter Pilz’s claims, and that the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service was in contact with Swisscom and other actors targeted by EIKONAL. Meanwhile, Pilz refused to answer questions about where he got the documents about the alleged spy operation. He said, however, that he did not think Swisscom was aware of the BND-NSA actions against it. The company issued a statement on Wednesday saying it had “no agreements with the NSA, the BND, or any other foreign intelligence agency that permit eavesdropping” on company lines.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 28 May 2015 | Permalink:


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