Germany to probe wiretapping scandal

New parliamentary committee to summon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as witness

New parliamentary committee to summon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as witness

BERLIN – German politicians are to invite U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden to give evidence as part of a new investigation into the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance of senior German leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ruling and opposition parties announced on Friday a joint eight-member parliamentary committee to investigate “in what ways” and “to what extent” the NSA carried out surveillance in Germany since 2001. The committee is expected to hear Snowden testify as a witness, German media reported.

“Parliamentary groups of all parties agreed last night on a joint proposal to set up the NSA investigation committee. I very much welcome this agreement,” said parliamentary group leader of Social Democrat Party, Christine Lambrecht.

Snowden’s 2013 revelations highlighted that Germany had played a central role in the NSA's global surveillance network. Chancellor Merkel was also targeted by the covert US surveillance. Der Spiegel magazine reported that Snowden’s claims reveal how the NSA collected around half a billion communications connections each month from Germany.

“After this wiretapping affair many people in Germany feel insecure,” Lambrecht told the media on Friday. “Many citizens fairly ask pressing questions about the security and integrity of electronic communications. Firms fear spying targeting their operations and business secrets,” she added.

“Therefore it is important to clarify the possible violations of civil rights by the activities of the intelligence services. Besides that, the enquiry committee will also work intensively to identify the necessary reforms to protect the privacy of electronic communications in a more effective way. We have to ensure that, in the field of intelligence, one cannot use each and every thing though it is technically possible.”

According to German press reports, U.S. surveillance of the country’s leaders started in 2002 during the presidency of George W. Bush, including the monitoring of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who opposed supporting American military intervention in Iraq.

The German authorities believe that the NSA’s suspected surveillance operation was controlled from a special facility at the U.S. embassy building in Berlin which is only a kilometer from the Chancellery. 

The new committee will also try to clarify whether diplomatic missions and military bases of allied countries in Germany have been used for surveillance operations.

Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported last month that following the wiretapping expose the NSA had stopped monitoring the German Chancellor’s phone but continued to target other officials, including Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a close confident of Merkel.

The newspaper claimed that the NSA continued to monitor 320 high-level German politicians and business leaders.

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