German parliament report on NSA spying contains little consensus

Angela MerkelA lengthy parliamentary report on American intelligence activities in Germany was presented last week in Berlin, but was condemned by opposition parties as insufficient and incomplete, prompting calls for a new investigation. The parliamentary probe was initiated in 2013, following a series of revelations by Edward Snowden, a former employee of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency who defected to Russia. Snowden alleged that both agencies spied on Germany, with the NSA going so far as to eavesdrop on the personal telephone communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The allegations shocked German public opinion, and resulted in the unprecedented expulsion of the CIA station chief in Berlin —the most senior US intelligence official in the country. However, the parliamentary probe soon broadened its scope to include subsequent allegations that German intelligence agencies collaborated with the NSA in spying against other Western countries.

Last Wednesday, after three years of work, the parliamentary committee, known officially as the “German Parliamentary Committee Investigating the NSA Spying Scandal”, presented its findings to the Bundestag. They consist of thousands of pages of technical details concerning interception methods and capabilities. However, the final report fails to draw concrete conclusions, and its concluding section does not reflect a consensus among the committee’s members. The section begins by noting that, “unfortunately, despite an initial shared conviction by all parliamentary groups about the need for the investigation, substantial disagreements emerged between the governing and opposition groups, concerning the methodology and goals of the committee’s work”.

The differences between committee members culminated in June, when members who represented the opposition Die Linke and Grüne parties authored a 450-page dissent document. But the leadership of the committee refused to incorporate the dissenting document into the final version of the report, arguing that it contained sensitive and classified information that could not be shared. In response the authors of the dissenting document refused to approve the final version of the report and were subsequently removed from the committee. Consequently, the final report presented to the Bundestag last week was endorsed only by the two governing parties, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria.

Despite some criticism of both American and German intelligence operations, the committee’s report says that there is no evidence that Washington spied on Germans on a large scale. It also argues that both Germany and the United States have sufficiently rigorous parliamentary oversight systems, which should alleviate the privacy concerns of civil-liberties advocates. But the two opposition parties dismissed the findings of the report as a ‘whitewash’, and criticized the German government for not finding a way to interview Edward Snowden during the investigation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 July 2017 | Permalink

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