As if what has been revealed until now were not enough, after being
ordered by President Barack Obama to stop spying on Chancellor Angela
Merkel, it appears that NSA has decided to extend its spying activities
to other German government officials.
“We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we
are no longer able to monitor the Chancellor’s communication directly,”
said a source of Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
About 320 high-ranking officials and businessmen appear to be on NSA
surveillance list. Among the officials said to be targeted is interior
minister Thomas de Maiziere, Merkel’s former chief of staff who seems to
be one of Merkel’s close advisers.
As De Maiziere, was apparently envisaged as a potential successor to
NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, according to the NSA
source the intelligence agency “wanted to know if he is a reliable partner.”
Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Der Spiegel he had “doubts
that a no-spy agreement will get us much further” and added that he
hoped “Washington understood that the way it deals with partners can
also have a political price.”
The documents revealed by Snowden last year show more and more areas and
extent of the surveillance carried out by NSA and GCHQ which exceed
largely the purpose of fighting terrorism and crime.
Among other things, they reveal the actions against WikiLeaks and other
activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to
prosecution, including a broad campaign of international pressure aimed
at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but also at the entire “human
network that supports WikiLeaks.”
“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office
of the General Counsel is especially troubling. Today, we call on the
White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of
the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its
staff, its associates and its supporters,” said Assange.
NSA analysts considered designating WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign
actor” for surveillance purposes. “If the foreign IP is consistently
associated with malicious cyber activity against the U.S., so, tied to a
foreign individual or organization known to direct malicious activity
our way, then there is no need to defeat any to, from, or about U.S.
Persons. This is based on the description that one end of the
communication would always be this suspect foreign IP, and so therefore
any U.S. Person communicant would be incidental to the foreign
This means that by considering WikiLeaks a “malicious foreign target”,
anyone, including US citizens, communicating with the organization could
have their communications placed under government surveillance.
The documents reveal internal discussions about targeting the
file-sharing site Pirate Bay, which has been accused of facilitating
copyright violations, as well as hacktivist groups such as Anonymous.
In the meantime, on 12 February 2014, a European Parliament committee
voted against calling for asylum protection for Edward Snowden. A short
paragraph, among hundreds of amendments in the committee’s NSA inquiry
report, requested that EU member states drop criminal charges against
him, if any, and “offer him protection from prosecution, extradition or
Report: NSA spying on German ministers instead of Merkel (24.02.2014)
MEPs say No to Snowden asylum in Europe (12.02.2014)
Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed
at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters (18.02.2014)