German government denies deceit in NSA scandal

17346938165_3f1071aa5e_z.jpg [Christine und Hagen Graf/Flickr]

Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert rejected accusations of a govenment cover-up in the mushrooming NSA scandal. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Seibert said on Monday (11 May) that he reported on the issue that to the best of his judgement, appropriately presenting his level of knowledge at that time.

His statement comes in response to accusations that Washington never offered Germany a No-Spy-Agreement, in contrast to government statements that suggested otherwise at the time.

When asked to elaborate on the US offer in more concrete terms, Seibert repeatedly refused . “The basis of the former assessment […] was an offer from the US side to generalise agreements on joint projects that existed at the time, and expand them to cover all of Germany,” he explained. “That is what I can say about that,” he said.

Several media had reported that, in the end, the United States never offered Germany a No-Spy-Agreement in the NSA scandal.

But this would contradict what the Chancellory’s then-Chief of Staff, Ronald Pofalla, and former Federal Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich said at the time. The whole affair has put the Chancellory under considerable pressure.

>>Read: Juncker on Germany’s BND scandal: ‘It is very difficult to keep secret services under control’

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her confidence in her ministers on Monday. “I can say […] here in public, that everyone worked according to the best of their knowledge and judgement,” she said in Berlin.

“That applies to the Chancellory’s current chief of staff, but also to predecessors, including Ronald Pofalla,” Merkel emphasised.

She reacted to accusations, especially from the opposition, against former Chancellory Chief of Staff Thomas de Maizière, as well as Pofalla, who both hail from Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Opposition parties are accusing them of failing to monitor the German intelligence service (BND) because the latter allegedly also helped its American counterpart, the NSA, spy on targets in Germany.

Merkel said the German government will supply the Bundestag’s investigation committee with all the necessary documents. “To me,” she explained, “it is a matter of course that intelligence services must also comply with German law when they operate in Germany.”

Europeans have reacted angrily to allegations that a US intelligence agency had tapped the servers of internet companies for personal data, saying such activity confirmed their fears about American Web giants' reach and showed that tighter regulations were needed just as the EU and US are about to launch trade talks.

In July, Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into the NSA's programme, known as Prism, after Britain's Guardian newspaper and German magazine Der Spiegel revealed wide-scale spying by the agency leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In Germany, where many are particularly sensitive about surveillance given the state's history of spying on its own people during the Cold War, there were protests about the NSA affair over the summer.

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