The fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged on Sunday that the National Security Agency was “in bed together” with German intelligence despite claims by politicians in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition that they were shocked by the extent of American spying in Germany.
In an interview with Der Spiegel , Snowden claimed that the NSA provided German intelligence, with analysis tools to help the organisation monitor data flowing through Germany. “The NSA people are in bed together with the Germans,"” he told the magazine.
He added that the NSA’s foreign affairs directorate, which is responsible for relations with other countries, had set up a system whereby political leaders “could be insulated” from the backlash if spying became public and helped to play down how grievously they were “violating global privacy.”
Snowden also claimed to shed further light on the extent of British spying activities saying that the UK’s GCHQ was the only organisation which operated a so-called “full take” system of information monitoring which stored all data crossing its path for a total of 30 days.
The allegations seemed certain to cause further shock waves in Germany, where the issue of NSA spying is fast turning into a thorny political campaign issue in the run up to the September general election.
German MPs have expressed outrage at the extent of British and American spying on German internet and phone traffic and NSA spying on European Union offices. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Interior Minister is scheduled to fly to Washington this week to obtain an “explanation” from the US authorities.
Ms Merkel has herself complained that the extent of US and British spying is reminiscent of the Cold War and demanded that it be brought under control. However it is well known that German intelligence has been able to prevent planned terror attacks on German soil with the help of NSA intelligence.
Snowden is believed to be still holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. He has been trying to find a country to give him sanctuary since arriving there from Hong Kong on June 23. However his Russian hosts appear to be becoming irked by his continued presence.
On Sunday Alexei Pushkov, an influential Russian MP who often speaks for the Kremlin said he would encourage Snowden to accept Venezuela’s recent offer of asylum, saying it was probably his “last chance”.