August 5, 2013 (TSR) – German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has asked the country’s foreign intelligence service (BND) to provide a full explanation after it confirmed that it passed on data to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
“If it is true that the BND made itself available as a tool for the NSA in the mass gathering of data, than something urgently needs to be done,” Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said in an interview published in Monday’s edition of the Munchner Merkur newspaper.
The BND has confirmed reports by the Spiegel Online that the NSA had received around 500 pieces of metadata from the German intelligence service last December alone. But a BND spokesman told local media over the weekend that the agency’s activities were in complete compliance with German laws.
Recent reports of widespread U.S. spying have sparked outcry in privacy-sensitive Germany and it showed no sign of abating as the federal election is drawing close.
As a result, Germany announced last week the cancellation of a Cold War-era agreement on information-sharing with the United States and Britain as recent revelations about U.S. online spying, which put the government under increasing pressure and criticism.
Facing increasing political pressure, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated that “German laws must be abided by on German territory.” She also said Germany is not a surveillance state.
The German opposition parties have been criticizing Chancellor Merkel’s coalition government over its handling of the United States’ massive surveillance program in Germany.
However, the spying scandal has not seemed to affect Merkel’s popular status in Germany on the eve of general elections. A recent opinion poll by public broadcaster ZDF showed that 62 percent of respondents still support Merkel as the preferred chancellor.
An opinion poll published last Thursday also indicated that Merkel’s ruling coalition has scored 47 percent support, which is enough to win a parliamentary majority in the Sept. 22 election.