The Case of NATO's Mutual Defense


COLOGNE/BERLIN (Own report) - Recent media reports have confirmed the involvement of German domestic intelligence services in the cooperation with US internet espionage. According to these reports, not only Germany's foreign Federal Intelligence Service (BND) but also the domestic intelligence gathering "Federal Office for the Defense of the Constitution" (BfV) has access to special NSA XKeyscore software permitting comprehensive surveillance measures. The talk is of "total surveillance." The BfV had already been closely integrated in the transatlantic intelligence service cooperation. This service had participated in interrogations of various German victims - or victims residing in Germany - of the CIA's abductions. Prisoners held in Syria, for example, had complained of having been tortured, but had been ignored. There is proof of interrogations of a German citizen by a BfV official in a prison in Afghanistan - notorious for its torture - at least for the year 2010. The former Swiss special investigator of the European Council, Dick Marty, has reiterated his view that the NSA internet espionage - which is currently being sharply criticized, like the CIA's abduction policies - are based on the October 4, 2001 NATO - Mutual Defense agreement. The German Bundestag confirmed, most recently in December 2012, that a case of Mutual Defense is still in effect.

Nearly Total Surveillance

As the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Hans-Georg Maaßen has admitted, the German domestic intelligence service is in possession of the espionage software (Spyware) XKeyscore, a program primarily used by the US military's NSA intelligence agency. According to a media report, this program permits "nearly total digital surveillance."[1] It allows the "retroactive scrutiny of search words used by targeted persons in internet search machines." It "can also record a 'full take' of all unfiltered data over a period for several days," which includes, alongside data concerning general connections, even the content of the communication." The NSA stores a large portion of its retrieved German online data material in XKeyscore. The head of the BfV, Hans-Georg Maaßen, who, at the beginning of the month, had been still alleging not having any knowledge of the NSA's Prism espionage program and by mid-July was affirming that internet espionage in Germany would have to be more resolutely dealt with in the future, is now insisting that his service is merely "testing" the software furnished by the USA. It is not being used for information exchange.[2]


The XKeyscore case is a renewed confirmation that not only the BND, but also the domestic BfV intelligence service has been active in the comprehensive cooperation of Western espionage services - at least since the events of September 11, 2001. This, by no means, involves only the exchange of information. It includes also the participation in interrogations of victims abducted by the CIA. One example is the interrogation, in the latter half of November 2002, of the Syrian-German Mohammed Haydar Zammar in a Damascene torture chamber. At the instigation of the CIA, Zammar, a resident of Germany had been captured and abducted to the Syrian capital - probably with the help of information from German authorities - where he was presumably tortured. In July 2002, German authorities began receiving protocols of his interrogations, wherein there could have been no doubt about the application of Syrian torture techniques. The advisor to the Federal Chancellery at the time, Guido Steinberg - today, a Middle East expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) - had warned that, in Syria, "when it is a question of politically implicated prisoners, torture tends to be the rule rather than the exception." ( reported.[3]) Both BfV officials, who, nevertheless, took part in Zammar's interrogation in Damascus in November 2002, had to note that Zammar had complained of being tortured. In March 2008, BfV President at the time, Heinz Fromm, placated the German parliament's commission of inquiry into the activities of the BND, saying that Zammar "did not give the impression of being someone under pressure."[4]

A Transatlantic Friendly Favor

A similar case implicates not only the BfV, in general, but even its incumbent president personally, and demonstrates the special advantages of transatlantic secret service cooperation. This is the case of interrogations of the Bremen resident Murat Kurnaz, who, in January 2002, had been abducted by the CIA from Afghanistan and taken to Guantanámo, and a second prisoner from Germany, interrogated on September 23 and 24, 2002. Two BND officials and an official of the BfV carried out these interrogations in Guantanámo. Kurnaz says he had been "very happy and relieved" to "finally see a German interrogation team," rather than ones from the USA, whose secret services had abducted him. According to a subsequent report by the BND, the inmate, in the hopes of "advantages and even an earlier release" had answered "all questions sincerely" and "comprehensively." In another report, the BfV concluded that the team from the secret services had "convinced" Kurnaz during the interrogations that he is confronted "solely with a single interrogating institution" - a German institution.[5] However, this was not the case. As was noted in a BfV report dated October 29, 2002, the Germans had been accompanied by a US American intelligence official from the Joint Intelligence Staff in Berlin, who Kurnaz had not recognized as such, since he spoke perfect German. With this - presumably illegal - deception, the BND and BfV had aided the US services to achieve a successful interrogation.

A Transatlantic Career

As the German intelligence officials, who had been sent to Guantanámo, unanimously reported, the US contact persons - under authorization of the Pentagon - had offered, at the time, to permit Kurnaz to return to Germany. However the German SPD-Green coalition government refused. In an expertise, the director of the department for alien law in the German Ministry of the Interior justified this decision with the allegation that Kurnaz, who had a Turkish passport, had lost his right of residence in Germany, having been outside of Germany for more than six months - referring to the period he was being held in US torture chambers in Kandahar and Guantanámo. This allegation, which led to another 4 years of incarceration at the US military base for Kurnaz, was later ruled illegal by the Court of Claims in Bremen. Kurnaz was finally able to return to Germany in August 2006. The department director, in question, rose in the ranks, to become the director of the counter-terrorism department in the Ministry of the Interior in 2008, to then be named President of the BfV, in July 2012. Hans-Georg Maaßen, who, only a few days ago, had reiterated not having known anything about the US espionage programs, whose catch is used by US authorities to carry out operations against German residents, was unsuccessful last July, in his efforts to be awarded an honorary professorship at the Free University of Berlin. The Free University's Academic Council rejected his request, making reference to the Kurnaz affair.

October 4, 2001

According to experts, the BfV's practical cooperation with the US services is also important for transatlantic internet espionage activities, because both are based on NATO decisions dating from the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001. A European Council special investigator in questions of CIA abductions and secret prisons, the Swiss liberal, Dick Marty, recently reiterated his view that the point of departure for all of the joint secret service activities is the triggering of a case of NATO Mutual Defense, which had been declared on September 12, 2001 and formally initiated October 4, 2001. According to Marty, a secret meeting had been convened October 4, 2001, wherein intelligence services - under the leadership of the CIA - were given a free hand.[6] This coincides with the German government's declaration that there are old accords with the World War II allies allowing the most comprehensive intelligence service activities - for example, by the USA - on German territory, however these do not form the basis of the current espionage actions. ( reported.[7])

Still in Effect Today

As a matter of fact the "case of Mutual Defense" remains in effect - still today. Most recently on December 13, 2012, the German parliament declared [8]: "The attack on the USA, in accordance with the spirit of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, from which the joint NATO reaction has resulted, had not been terminated with the September 11, 2001 attacks, but has continued, being expressed in other attacks and attempts at attacks which persist to this day." Thus the secret October 4, 2001 agreements, that Marty has been criticizing for years,[9] are also most likely still in force. It is unknown, whether several noteworthy incidents, not only from 2001 to 2006, but even more recently, can be traced back to this. For example, in the period from October 3 - 6, 2010, as well as on November 27 and 28, 2010 a German citizen had been interrogated by BND and BfV officials in the US military's Bagram prison - known for its torture chambers - situated not far from Kabul, resembling the Kurnaz case of September 2002 in Guantanámo.[10] In October 2010, another German, Bünyamin E., was killed in Pakistan by a US drone, not far from the borders to Afghanistan. It is still unknown which information about him German services had provided their US American counterparts.[11] July 1, the German Prosecutor General announced that he had closed the penal investigations for the killing of Bünyamin E. His reasoning: E. had been a member of "an organized armed group," therefore the mortal attack on him "did not constitute a war crime."[12] At least one other such case is known, however, the German government has yet to break its silence - as in the case of internet espionage, in which, according to the expert, Dick Marty, Germany's foreign and domestic intelligence agencies are implicated within the framework of NATO's Mutual Defense.

Further information can be found here: Allied Services (I), Allied Services (II) and Friend and Foe.

[1] Deutsche Geheimdienste setzen US-Spähprogramm ein; 20.07.2013
[2] Der Aufklärungsdruck wächst; 21.07.2013
[3] s. dazu Deutsch-syrischer Herbst
[4] Verfassungsschutz machte gemeinsame Sache mit Syrien; 06.03.2008
[5] Rechtswidrige Vernehmung; 27.01.2013
[6] Ist der Nato-Bündnisfall der Schlüssel? 09.07.2013
[7] see also Allied Services (I), Friend and Foe and Kein Rechtsstaat
[8] Antrag der Bundesregierung: Fortsetzung des Einsatzes bewaffneter deutscher Streitkräfte bei der Unterstützung der gemeinsamen Reaktion auf terroristische Angriffe gegen die USA auf Grundlage des Artikels 51 der Satzung der Vereinten Nationen und des Artikels 5 des Nordatlantikvertrags sowie der Resolutionen 1368 (2001) und 1373 (2001) des Sicherheitsrats der Vereinten Nationen; Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 17/11466
[9] see also Oktober 2001
[10] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Wolfgang Neskovic, Christine Buchholz, Annette Groth, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion DIE LINKE vom 1. April 2011; Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 17/5074
[11] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Andrej Hunko, Herbert Behrens, Nicole Gohlke weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion DIE LINKE vom 6. Mai 2013; Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 17/13169
[12] Keine Anklage wegen eines Drohnenangriffs in Mir Ali/Pakistan am 4. Oktober 2010; 01.07.2013