03:12 GMT +319 August 2019
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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, left

    Merkel's German Coalition Government Split Over Spying Affair

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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming under increasing pressure to divulge a list of targets, including the IP addresses of individual computers, which German intelligence tracked on behalf of the US National Security Agency (NSA).

    Critics have accused Merkel's staff of giving the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) foreign intelligence agency the green light to help the NSA spy on European firms and officials, triggering a scandal that has dented the chancellor's popularity.

    The affair has strained relations between Merkel's conservatives and their junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), whose leader Sigmar Gabriel has publicly challenged her over her role in the affair.

    Gabriel said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the German parliament needed to see the list, which contains "selectors" such as names, search terms and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the unique identifiers that enable computers to communicate via the Internet.

    The government has said it must consult with Washington before revealing the list, whose contents are considered crucial to establishing whether the BND was at fault in helping the NSA.

    Edward Snowden's Revelations

    Spying is a sensitive issue in Germany because of the abuses of the Nazi eras. Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging US espionage in Germany caused outrage when they surfaced, and this has now been compounded by the allegation that the BND was complicit.

    According to Reuters, Gabriel, who is also vice chancellor, said:

    "Imagine if there were suspicions that the NSA had helped the BND to spy on American firms. Congress wouldn't hesitate for a second before looking into the documents."

    SPD General Secretary Yasmin Fahimi told the Tagesspiegel newspaper Germany should not "beg" the United States for permission to disclose the list, and Merkel "shouldn't be subservient to the USA."

    News magazine Der Spiegel said the issue had driven a wedge between Gabriel and the SPD's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is also foreign minister.

    Its report, which did not cite its sources, said while Gabriel was calling for the list to be released despite possible US resistance, Steinmeier did not think this advisable and had called the SPD leader to express his concerns.

    Conservative politician Patrick Sensburg, who heads a parliamentary committee investigating the NSA affair, accused the SPD of political point-scoring. He said he was sure Berlin would find a way to let committee members see the list but this would not be enough, as it also needed explanations of why certain search terms were chosen.

    Patriot Games

    Adding to the criticism waged at Merkel’s staff for giving the German intelligence agency the green light to help the NSA spy on European firms and officials, WikiLeaks has released 1,380 pages of documents from the BND committee hearing on the extent of the NSA's collaboration with the German agency.

    The documents include interviews with senior staff of the BND, NSA and Deutsche Telekom. However, these transcripts aren't going to be made available until the end of the investigation – which has already been going on for a year.

    Officials in Germany are still examining what the NSA has been doing with its country’s data. According to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Patrick Sensburg, BND's NSA committee chair, is concerned the WikiLeaks transcript revelations could be harmful to the investigation. Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of Germany’s domestic security agency, said he will pursue a criminal investigation.

    Meanwhile, the US House has voted to strike the section of the Patriot Act which allows access and mass collection of American phone records. Legislation to end the NSA's collection of metadata, detailing the telephone calls made by Americans, was approved.

    Meanwhile, the US House has voted to strike the section of the Patriot Act which allows access and mass collection of AmericanS' phone records.

    Related:

    German Spy Scandal: The End for Teflon Chancellor Merkel?
    German Spy Chief to Testify Next Week in NSA Snooping Scandal
    WikiLeaks Expose German Government's Role in NSA Surveillance
    Tags:
    spying, espionage, intelligence, NSA spying, surveillance, German governmnet, National Security Agency (NSA), BND, SPD, Bundestag, Angela Merkel, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany, Europe, United States, Berlin
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