The impending legal action by Airbus comes amid reports that Germany has been spying and eavesdropping on its closest partners in the European Union and passing the information to the Americans for more than a decade.
According German media reports, the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, used its biggest eavesdropping complex in Bavaria to monitor communications at the office of the French president, the French foreign ministry, and the European Commission in Brussels and then passed on the information to the Americans.
The snooping was also said to have targeted some of the biggest companies in Europe, including Airbus. None of the targets were German or American, however, in accordance with the terms of a 2002 pact between the BND and America’s National Security Agency (NSA).
Leaks from a secret BND document suggest that its Bad Aibling station in Bavaria checked whether European companies were breaking trade embargos after a request from the NSA.
“There is a concrete suspicion of industrial espionage,” Airbus said in a statement. “We are alarmed … We have asked the German government for information.”
It added: “We will now file a criminal complaint against persons unknown on suspicion of industrial espionage.”
Germany was outraged following 2013 disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked documents showing that the US targeted the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Berlin is now facing accusations of hypocrisy following these most recent accusations.
Thomas de Maizière, the German interior minister, allegedly lied about or covered up Germany’s collaboration with the United States. He has denied the allegations and promised to answer before the parliamentary inquiry – “the sooner, the better.”
From 2005-2009, Maizière served as Merkel’s chief of staff, the post in Berlin that exercises authority over the BND. He reportedly was informed of the spying activities in 2008.
The Bad Aibling complex was an NSA facility for years. Under an agreement brokered in 2002, it was handed over to the Germans in 2004. Since then, much of the information collected has been passed to the United States.