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NSA spied extensively on Germany’s phone lines,emails: report

Reports say US classed its biggest European ally as target like China; EU confronts US on spying charges.

Written by Reuters | Berlin |
July 1, 2013 2:45:13 am

The United States taps half a billion phone calls,emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month and has classed its biggest European ally as a target similar to China,according to secret US documents quoted by a German newsmagazine.

The revelations of alleged US surveillance programmes based on documents taken by fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have raised a political furore in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.

Exposing the latest details in a string of reputed spying programmes,Der Spiegel quoted from an internal NSA document which it said its reporters had seen. The document Der Spiegel cited showed that the US categorised Germany as a “third-class” partner and that surveillance there was stronger than in any other EU country,similar in extent to China,Iraq or Saudi-Arabia.

“We can attack the signals of most foreign third-class partners,and we do it too,” Der Spiegel quoted a passage in the NSA document as saying. It said the document showed that the NSA monitored phone calls,text messages,emails and internet chat contributions and has saved the metadata — that is,the connections,not the content — at its headquarters.

On an average day,the NSA monitored about 20 million German phone connections and 10 million internet data sets,rising to 60 million phone connections on busy days,the report said.

While it had been known from disclosures by Snowden that the US tapped data in Germany,the extent was previously unclear.

A Der Spiegel report on Saturday that the NSA had spied on European Union offices in Washington,Brussels and at the United Nations caused outrage among EU policymakers,with some even calling for a suspension to talks for a free trade agreement between Washington and the EU.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said on Sunday the EU contacted US authorities in Washington and Brussels about the report. “They have told us they are checking on the accuracy of the information released yesterday and will come back to us,” she said in a statement.

In France,Der Spiegel reported,the US taps about 2 million connection data a day. Only Canada,Australia,Britain and New Zealand were explicitly exempted from spy attacks.

Moscow to decide Snowden’s fate,says Ecuador

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said Saturday that Vice President Joseph R Biden Jr had asked him in a telephone call not to grant asylum to Edward J Snowden.

Correa,during his weekly television broadcast,said that the two had a “cordial” conversation on Friday initiated by Biden,but said Sunday he could not decide on Snowden’s request until he entered Ecuador or an Ecuadorean embassy. “It’s up to the Russian authorities if he can leave the Moscow airport for an Ecuadorean embassy,” Correa said in Portoviejo.“He will be treated just like any other citizen even though he does not have a passport. We are clear that this is a special situation,” he told Reuters.

In a related development,WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Sunday that Snowden made sure that the information he took about US surveillance programs will continue to be published regardless of what happens to him. “Great care has been taken to make sure that Snowden can’t be pressured by any state to stop the publication process,” Assange said.

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