Germany Caught “Accidentally” Spying on American Government Officials

by Matt Klassen on August 18, 2014

In an effort to find a way to deflect some of the criticism the NSA and the American government now faces in the wake of the PRISM global surveillance scandal, perhaps the American intelligence community should look to their German counterparts for an effective strategy: just say it was all an accident.

According to reports from German news agencies, Germany’s foreign intelligence service recorded phone calls made by US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as former secretary Hillary Clinton, a situation that has the potential to leave significant amounts of egg on Germany’s face following that country’s own outrage against alleged taps of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone last year; outrage that was followed by action against American telecommunications companies operating in the European nation.

While there has been official admission or denial, the report from German news weekly Der Spiegel cited sources as saying the calls were recorded accidentally, an unintentional “bycatch” made while Germany was conducting unrelated satellite surveillance in the Middle East. Although the Germany BND intelligence agency claims it immediately deletes all accidentally intercepted calls, the news report does also state that calls made by Hillary Clinton were not immediately deleted as per protocol, adding at least one layer of intrigue in this story.

The intercepted calls in question happened during different times, the report indicates, with at least one call by John Kerry being intercepted last year while he attempted to broker peace in theMiddle East, while it also recorded a call made between former Secretary of State Clinton and former United Nations head Kofi Annan in 2012. It was this call, theGermanymedia claims, that the BND failed to immediately delete.

The report goes on to explain that the intercepted phone calls were likely an unintentional “bycatch” made by surveillance satellites monitoring communications in the Middle East, an accident by all accounts. But of course there is no actual evidence that any of this was an accident, leaving Germany in a humorously hypocritical position.

I’ll admit, though, that its nice to know thatAmericadoesn’t have a monopoly on hypocrisy, as it really shakes one’s faith in democracy when the so-called bastion of freedom for the world seems to be the only one involved in such ongoing illegal activities. While both German and American authorities have decline to comment on this story, it does offer a modicum of embarrassment for a nation that only a few months ago was cancelling contracts with American telecommunications giant Verizon over apparent concerns that the firm could be acting as a front for American intelligence.

The Verizon story follows, of course, the alleged bugging of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone last year, something President Obama has had to ask forgiveness for on numerous occasions. That incident, as part of the greater PRISM scandal, led to sweeping reforms for the American intelligence community, with Obama promising the world that “unless there is a compelling national security purpose — [theUS] will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.”

So where does that leave international relations between American andGermany? While no political analyst, I would hope that perhaps it offers both nations a wash, a chance to admit that both are guilty (to some degree), while removing any justifiable grounds for any angry backlash. Not that I think it’ll work out this way, however, as it just doesn’t comport with the ongoing hypocrisy we’ve seen so far.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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