Jul 01, 2013

    Germany 'ranks with China' in US spying

    THE United States taps half a billion phone calls, and e-mail and text messages in Germany in a typical month, and has classed its biggest European ally as a target similar to China, according to secret US documents quoted by a German news magazine.

    The revelations about alleged US surveillance programmes, based on documents taken by fugitive former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, have raised a political furore in the US and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.

    Exposing the latest details in a string of reputed spying programmes, Der Spiegel quoted from an NSA internal document which it said its reporters had seen.

    The document Der Spiegel cited showed that the US categorised Germany as a "third-class" partner and that surveillance there was stronger than in any other European Union country, similar in extent to that of China, Iraq or Saudi Arabia.

    "We can attack the signals of most foreign third-class partners, and we do it too," Der Spiegel quoted a passage in the NSA document as saying.

    It said the document showed that the NSA monitored phone calls, text messages, e-mail and Internet chat contributions, and has saved the metadata - that is, the connections, not the content - at its headquarters.

    On an average day, the NSA monitored about 20 million German phone connections and 10 million Internet data sets, rising to 60 million phone connections on busy days, the report said.

    In France, the US tapped about two million "connection data" a day, Der Spiegel reported. Only Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand were explicitly exempted from spy attacks.

    Meanwhile, a "shocked" EU angrily awaited explanations from Washington following allegations of US spying on EU offices.

    Mr Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said in a statement that "I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of the US authorities spying on EU offices", in both Brussels and the US.

    "If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations."

    Some EU policymakers even called for a suspension in talks for a free-trade agreement between Washington and the EU.