Germany probes UK spy program revealed by CIA whistleblower

Sabine Leutheusser-SchnarrenbergerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Germany wants to know whether its citizens were spied on under a British government surveillance program revealed by American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden. The program, codenamed Project TEMPORA, was disclosed earlier this week by Snowden, a former technical assistant for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Snowden remains holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, as Russian authorities have rejected repeated requests by Washington to extradite him to the US. According to British newspaper The Guardian, which first wrote about Project TEMPORA on June 21, Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been able to “plug into the cables that carry internet traffic into and out” of the United Kingdom. The agency, which is tasked with communications interception, has therefore collected and stored massive quantities of foreign telephone call data and email messages, and has shared much of it with its US counterpart, the National Security Agency. On June 25, Germany’s Federal Minister of Justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, wrote a letter to her British counterpart, Chris Grayling, asking for immediate clarification on the precise legal basis for Project TEMPORA. In her letter, which was copied to the British Home Secretary, Theresa May, the German cabinet minister also inquires whether TEMPORA has been authorized by the appropriate judicial authorities. She argues that “European institutions should shed light on this [issue] immediately” and warns her British colleagues that she plans to raise the subject during the July 2013 meeting of European  Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers, which will be held in Brussels, Belgium. “I feel that these issues must be raised in a European Union context at minsters’ level and should be discussed in the context of ongoing discussions on the EU data protection regulation”, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger writes in her letter. International news agencies report from Berlin that the German minister’s letter reflects “growing anger in Germany at the disclosures” made by Snowden. London’s response is unlikely to diffuse the tension in Germany. On Tuesday night, Britain’s Justice Ministry said it would respond to the German government’s query “in due course”. On Wednesday, the German Press Agency said it had seen the British response to Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. It was allegedly a brief letter, consisting of “just three lines”, which advises the German government to “address its concerns directly to the intelligence services” of Britain.

14 Responses to Germany probes UK spy program revealed by CIA whistleblower

  1. Paul says:

    Spy on Germany? Of course not!!

    More to the point, the German Agency has had a recent increase to its funding to allow it to probe the internet more efficiently; I do hope they’re not spying on the British.

    They wouldn’t of course, would they?

  2. Kidd says:

    the boys & girls of the old Stasi must be green with envy. “if only we had……..”

  3. Anonymous says:

    “Oho!” said the pot to the kettle;
    “You are dirty and ugly and black!
    Sure no one would think you were metal,
    Except when you’re given a crack.”
    “Not so! not so!” kettle said to the pot;
    “‘Tis your own dirty image you see;
    For I am so clean – without blemish or blot –
    That your blackness is mirrored in me.”

    “Maxwell’s “Elementary Grammar”, copyright 1904

  4. Pete says:

    If the US and UK want to lift economic intelligence from German databases and conversations – whose to stop them?

  5. Much ado about nothing… the only reason for the letter and political posturing by the incumbent administration is upcoming elections; a case of pacifying the public as it were. German democracy is a mockery as much as anywhere, example given, Merkel is the ‘middleman’ between the armaments industry and parliament, she chairs a nine member cabal that decides who modern ‘panzers’ will be exported to (shining examples such as human rights beacons Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) and informs lawmakers after the fact. Meanwhile, everyone spies on everyone trying to get a leg up in the business but one must mollify those pesky citizens in the process

  6. Kidd says:

    Bad Aibling was/is the hub of electronic industrial espionage for the Americans starting in the early 90s after the cold war came to a halt. Before it was military electronic espionage. I donno if the Amis sold their findings , or shared. All sides know what the other is doing,this fake public shock is for show.

  7. The Prof says:

    GCHQ is known as the Government Communications Headquarters in Britain. I am sure German Intelligence do not monitor the MI6 station in Germany electronically-right? There is also the matter of the German SIGINT spy-ship monitoring Syrian communications in the Med according to Eye Spy Mag.

  8. Paul says:

    @Prof: The BND has been bankrolled to the sum of Eu100Million to update its Internet monitoring capability according to information available from a variety of sources.
    I suspect that anything worthwhile that can be found on the internet, irrespective of origin, is monitored by all the players; what one country’s agency says to another about their targets is likely to be anything but accurate.

    Your mention of the A53 Oker, Oste class ELINT and reconnaissance vessel mentioned ESM is interesting – that story first broke towards the end of August 2012.

    The reason that it is there is probably only to the good of Germany and NATO; The Turks and Syrians possess modern anti-aircraft/anti-ship weaponry and you can be assured that every time the target acquisition radar fires up, or radio messages are sent the A53 will be sampling the signals. The same was done in the Cold War by flying unmarked planes over borders and this will be just another way of doing that.

  9. I stumbled across this ..

    “modern technology is changing the game. American and British spies now produce so many documents on computer that it is increasingly difficult to stop them leaking out; the KGB, meanwhile, is restricting use of modern technology – and remains very efficient in protecting its secrecy”

    By a former KGB (Oleg Gordievsky) with a typo, he did not use the acronym FSB (article from 2000)

  10. Pete says:

    Hi Ron

    A very complimentary article for MI6 (who recruited Gordievsky). Unfortunately Snowden’s efforts have damaged MI6 and of course related GCHQ. FSB also boosts employee loyalty by assassinating those that it sees as treasonous – hence the hit on Litvinenko .

    The longer Snowden stays in Russia the more he is seen as a useful asset for FSB and its old case officer Putin.

    So, in one sense, its useful for the US that Snowden will be increasingly associated with Russia.



  11. Hi Pete

    Other than the one quote on technology, I didn’t find Gordievsky really interesting, yes he seems in love with MI6. Defectors are not really interesting to me as persons, outside of the circumstance of defection, more or less I see them as shallow or corrupt. Snowden, on the other hand, I don’t put in that class (and am not saying you have), rather I think of him in terms of political conviction, perhaps not a giant like Solzhenitsyn, but in the same category. Snowden’s revelations resonate (myself included) with many Americans with knowledge of and deep concerns for the rule of law in the USA.

    Insofar as Litvinenko, I expect there is no knowing who assassinated him for certain, or for which reasons. He’d surrounded himself with so many unreliable, inconsistent and dangerous people, and on top of cooperating with MI6, was also working with the Spanish authorities on Russian mafia. I do not doubt for a moment Russian security services have assassinated persons, but then MI6, DGSE & CIA are not exactly lilly white in this respect either.

    My best


  12. TFH says:

    I just saw this commentary on Fox TV where the talking head said that everybody knew this was happening, that USA was spying on EU, vice versa etc.
    Is it not kind of scary if the higher (at least consider themselves as such) echelons of the government already know of something but act all outraged and angry to the public once it is revealed beyond deniability?

  13. Pete says:

    Looks like much of the sigint Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, is complaining about is a joint operation shared between Germany and other NATO members (including the US).

    Looks like Germany hides part of its sigint capabilty within its BND Federal Intelligence Service. That is German sigint “Technische Aufklärung” forms the 4th Directorate of the BND.

    However no sigint service would be complete without a large military contribution for collection (including use of ground stations and satellites) and translation of the many European languages of Germany’s neighbours.

    The military contribution to Germany’s sigint capability is likely to be drawn from German Armed Forces Strategic Reconnaissance Command – which consists of: the SIGINT Technical Analysis Centre; Signal Sectors; Strategic Reconnaissance School; and, Electronic Warfare Battalions.

    Some oversight would come from joint NATO organisations including “German Armed Forces Command, United States and Canada” .



  14. Paul says:

    @Ron I have a friend who is a convicted Russian spy. He served a long sentence for his efforts which he still denies. At his trial Gordievsky appeared as an expert witness and gave such evidence as was actually questioned by the MI5 officer who appeared for the prosecution at a later time.

    Gordievsky has a knack of appearing on our news offering expert opinion on just about every facet of intelligence although things will have drastically changed in the ~28 years since he defected. The tradecraft of putting a chalk mark on the wall at a drop or a bent coke can by a drain with its apex pointing to the kerb might not have changed but a lot of the technical aspects and methods have.

    I suspect that what Gordievsky states is for mass public consumption for the news hungry; look at it under the surface and you soon see its more than a little suspect.

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