15 September 2013, 10:19

German spy agency shares classified data with NSA – media

Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, charged with domestic security, works closely with the US NSA and shares classified data with it, Suddeutsche Zeitung has reported, citing secret government documents it managed to obtain.

According to these documents, German’s foreign spy agency sent 864 data packages to the NSA.

The Federal Office confirmed that it worked closely with the NSA but underlined that “the cooperation contributes to the prevention of terrorist acts and maintaining German security”.

Previous leaks by ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden, revealing that the German intelligence hands over classified data to the NSA, sparked outrage and debate among Germans leading to thousands of people taking to the streets last week to protest against the NSA’s data collecting and fight for their right to privacy.

According to estimates of the Pirate Party and Green Party, which organized the demonstration, it gathered around 20,000 people on Berlin’s streets.

“Our data should be protected. At this moment, we have no way to defend ourselves from surveillance. Today we’d like to show that we will not accept this,” one of the protesters told Russia Today.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already claimed she wasn’t aware of the NDA spying on her country and its citizens. But later her stance softened. She said intelligence is “essential for the security of citizens” so a balance should be found between people’s freedom and security.

As far as the US was concerned, Merkel said that in spite of speculations about its global surveillance program it stayed one of Germany’s closest allies.

Thousands in German anti-NSA protest

Thousands took to the streets in Berlin Saturday in protests against Internet surveillance activities by the US National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies, and the German government's perceived lax reaction to them.

Organisers, among them the opposition Greens, The Left and Pirates parties, said 20,000 people turned out. Police would not confirm the figure, saying only their "tally differs from that of the organisers".

The protest was organised under the slogan "Freedom Rather Than Fear" and demonstrators carried banners saying: "Stop spying on us" and, more sarcastically: "Thanks to PRISM (the US government's vast data collection programs) the government finally knows what the people want".

"Intelligence agencies like the NSA shamelessly spy on telephone conversations and Internet connections worldwide (and) our government, one of whose key roles is the protection from harm, sends off soothing explanations," said one speaker, Kai-Uwe Steffens.

On Thursday, newly leaked documents alleged that US and British intelligence agencies have cracked the encryption that secures a wide range of online communications - including emails, banking transactions and phone conversations.

The documents provided by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden to The New York Times, ProPublica and The Guardian suggest that the spy agencies are able to decipher data even with the supposedly secure encryption designed to make it private.

'Black budget' shows CIA swells in size - Snowden leak

The CIA has mushroomed into the largest US spy agency with a nearly $15 billion budget as it expands intelligence, cyber sabotage and overseas covert operations, secret leaked documents showed Thursday.

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked the government's "black budget" for fiscal year 2013 to The Washington Post, which published portions of the top-secret document online in the latest in a series of revelations that have put the US intelligence community under a spotlight.

The $52.6 billion budget request for the nation's 16 spy agencies is not a startling revelation in itself - the White House has published overall intelligence spending since 2007.

But it shows a dramatic resurgence of the Central Intelligence Agency, once thought to be on the decline after it acknowledged intelligence failures prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

It now is the dominant colossus within the national intelligence community, expanding its workforce by more than 25 percent from a decade ago, to 21,575 this year.

CIA has increased its budget request to $14.7 billion, nearly 50 percent more than the NSA this year, according to the Post's review of the documents, even as government austerity has forced agencies to contend with shrinking budgets.

By comparison, in 1994 the CIA accounted for $4.8 billion of the total $43.4 billion intel budget in 2012 dollars, according to the Post.

In the budget's introduction, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that the intelligence community faced "hard choices" as government is forced to rein in costs.

Spending is projected to remain level through 2017, but Clapper stressed that "never before has the IC (intelligence community) been called upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a resource-constrained environment."

Snowden's earlier disclosures to Britain's The Guardian newspaper and the Post uncovered details of the NSA's vast surveillance programs that scooped up data on nearly every American.

The NSA has long been considered the behemoth of the intelligence community, but according to the black budget, CIA's resources are nearly 50 percent larger.

The funding pays for an array of spy satellites, high-tech equipment and employees including analysts, linguistic experts, cryptologists and an increasing number of cyber specialists.

But CIA resources have also been funding secret prisons, an enlarged counterterrorism center, a series of paramilitary operations, and some $2.3 billion in human intelligence operations, the Post said.

It is also spending $2.6 billion on "covert action programs," which include deployment of lethal drones, payments to militias in places like Afghanistan, and efforts to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.

Germany demands sanctions for US firms over privacy

Germany's justice minister called for data protection laws across the European Union using Berlin's stringent standards, with sanctions for US firms that violate them, in an interview published Monday.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the daily Die Welt that Germany's strong privacy rules should become the standard for the 28-member EU, in response to revelations of sweeping US surveillance practices.

"We need a package of measures at the EU level against mass spying by foreign secret services," she said.

"High German data protection standards should be the rule. US companies that do not uphold these standards should be banned from the European market."

She said a single EU policy on the issue would have to entail stronger parliamentary oversight for intelligence services and "regular, intensive exchanges of information between the supervisory committees".

"The standard for privacy protection in the digital age should not be set by the global intelligence services but be based on the basic rights of citizens," she said.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has been among the most vocal critics of snooping by the US National Security Agency in a country where bitter memories of state surveillance under the Nazis and the East German communists are still very much alive.

The issue has emerged as a dominant theme in the campaign for a September 22 general election in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a third term.

Merkel has stressed that Germany "is not a surveillance state" and that "German law applies on German soil" but also conceded that the policy has its limits in the age of global telecommunication systems.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said last month she is determined to deliver new European data protection laws in the wake of news about the NSA programmes to capture and store personal information gleaned from emails, phone calls and web searches.

US tech giants such as Google, Skype or Facebook have been implicated as working hand-in-hand with the US authorities.

Mass protest in Germany against US intelligence surveillance

Thousands of Germans on Saturday took part in demonstrations against US intelligence surveillance abroad that extends to private individuals in Europe.

US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed recently that the National Security Agency programme had cooperated with German intelligence services in the programme.

The German government denied that the electronic communications of citizens and politicians were being tracked on a massive scale in the country where privacy laws are among the world's strictest.

German activists, including the Pirate Party and the Occupy movement, formed an alliance to host the demonstrations under the slogan "Stop Watching Us."

Demonstrations were organized in 30 cities and towns. Around 2,000 people took part in the demonstration in the port city of Hamburg.

In Frankfurt, where organizers had expected 5,000 demonstrators, police gave an initial estimate of 850.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, dpa, AFP, RIA, RT

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