The New German Arrogance (II)

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/VIENNA | | oesterreich

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/VIENNA (Own report) - In cooperation with NSA, a US military intelligence service, the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has massively intercepted and stored emails from Austria, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. This became evident through an internal email from an employee of the Deutsche Telekom AG, responsible for cooperation with the intelligence service and police. According to the email, published by the Austrian parliamentarian Peter Pilz, Telekom, already in early February 2005, had given a green light to the BND having access to a fiber optic cable for internet communication connecting Luxembourg to Austria and numerous other countries. At the time, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD), as Head of the Federal Chancellery, bore the highest responsibility for the activities of the BND. According to reports, Austria's domestic intelligence was also being tapped. Whoever is cognizant of this communication, knows "almost everything about the Republic's political life," summarized Pilz. The governments concerned have raised no serious protests, in the Germany-dominated EU. The German government is continuing the BND's technological upgrading, aimed ultimately toward raising German espionage "to an equal footing" with the NSA - also in internet spying.

Siphoned off and Copied

The German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has cooperated with the NSA, a US military intelligence service, in spying on residents and government agencies of at least four of Germany's close EU allies, and probably on several Vienna-based international organizations, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This was revealed by an internal email from an employee of the Deutsche Telekom AG, published late last week by the Austrian parliamentarian Peter Pilz (Green Party).[1] In his email, the Telekom employee informed his BND contact that a fiber optic cable from Frankfurt to Luxembourg has just been activated, and the flow of "national internet traffic" has been stopped. The BND, which - as a foreign intelligence service - theoretically is not allowed to spy on German citizens, took this as a signal to have full access to the line also leading to Vienna. "Telekom Austria's data were siphoned off at the internet exchange point in Frankfurt via the BND office in the Deutsche Telekom AG, copied and transmitted further to the BND headquarters in Pullach," as Peter Pilz describes the German measures. They were then "made available for automated access ... by the Signal Intelligence."[2]

Espionage Target: International Organizations

The parliamentarian Peter Pilz's revelation has exposed the second case of comprehensive cyber espionage targeting Austria. Last March, it was discovered that among the 35 espionage targets - including the French providers Alcatel-Lucent and Wanadoo - the NSA was monitoring the UPC internet provider (formerly chello.at). The data was collected at multiple nodes "with the aid of private telecom companies" and their fiber optic cables. NSA vacuums "the majority of records" in the United States, "but there are also eight nodes outside US territory."[3] The BND-NSA cooperation at the internet exchange point DE-CIX in Frankfurt had been in the headlines since quite some time.[4] In connection with the monitoring of UPC, a provider serving approximately 464,000 customers in Austria, observers assumed, already back in March, that the particular interest in monitoring Austrian communications could be related to the "numerous international organizations in Vienna." The IAEA was explicitly mentioned. The NSA-suspected "Regin" espionage malware had already been discovered in its network previously.[5]

Almost Everything on Austria

The fact that the BND has also siphoned off information from the Austrian domestic intelligence service is particularly serious. According to research by "Fakt" a German ARD public televised magazine, the unspecified Austrian "Federal Office," targeted by BND-NSA cyber espionage, is in fact the "Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter-Terrorism,"[6] which compiles "data on tens of thousands of persons," according to the parliamentarian Peter Pilz. Whoever has access to this data, knows "almost everything about this Republic's political life."

Initiated by SPD-Green Coalition

The email from the "Regional Office for Special Functions of State" (ReSA) of the Deutsche Telekom in Frankfurt [7] dated March 3, 2005 - during the incumbency of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Frank-Walter Steinmeier as Head of the Federal Chancellery - indicated that the BND was given a green light at a technical level to siphon off Austria's communication data. The Head of the Federal Chancellery bears the highest responsibility for the activities of the BND.

First Priority

Austria is evidently not the only target of this siphoning off of data. Other EU allies are also targeted. As can be seen from the ReSA email, four streams of communication on the BND's "first priority list" pass through the Deutsche Telekom's new fiber optic cables: Not only the Luxembourg - Vienna connection, but also Luxembourg - Prague, Ankara - Luxembourg and Luxembourg - Moscow.[8] Therefore, data at least from Luxembourg and the Czech Republic has been systematically stored by the BND. A few days ago, it became known that the German foreign intelligence agency was siphoning off data from France, and was even spying on French government agencies.[9] It is not yet known if something similar was being carried out in Luxembourg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's homeland, and in Prague. On the other hand, spying on communications of persons or institutions in Russia and Turkey is not very surprising.

No Official Protest

So far, only members of the oppositions in France and Austria have seriously protested. Austrian opposition parliamentarian Peter Pilz spoke of an "obvious breach of the law," and called on the Telekom-Austria to initiate legal steps against the Deutsche Telekom. Pilz is asking Vienna to initiate a parliamentary investigating committee.[10] Recently Jean-Luc Mélenchon, presidential candidate of the French opposition's "Front de Gauche" in 2012, noted a "new German arrogance" that is emerging - not by chance - "at a time" when Berlin is "dominating Europe."[11] However, the French government has so far dispensed with any form of official protest. Austria's Minister of the Interior merely brought charges "against persons unknown." Neither Luxembourg nor the Czech Republic have, for the time being, brought charges against Europe's hegemon.

A Greater Role in the World

In the meantime, Berlin is continuing to expand the BND's cyber espionage. Within the framework of a "Strategic Initiative - Technology," the German government has, as a first step, placed a third of a billion Euros at the disposal of the Foreign Intelligence Service, to enhance its capabilities in e-mail and online espionage and, if possible, reach "an equal footing" with the NSA.[12] "Internationale Politik," a leading periodical of the German foreign policy elite, explains that "if Germany wants to play a more significant role in the world, it is imperative that it expand its capabilities."[13] Germany spends more than a billion Euros on moving the BND from Pullach (near Munich) to Berlin, where it can develop closer ties to the ministries and parliament. The German government recently admitted that the originally 720 million Euros earmarked for the construction of the BND's new headquarters has already expanded to more than a billion Euros. The overall costs for the transition are now being calculated at 1.588 billion Euros. The reinforcement of the country's intelligence service, which is even spying on Germany's closest EU allies, is an inextricable component of the consolidation of Germany's predominance over Europe and its new global policy.[14]

[1] Die E-Mail ist hier einsehbar: netzpolitik.org/wp-upload/2005-02-03-BND-Telekom-AT.jpg .
[2] Fabian Schmid: BND spionierte für NSA Leitungen der Telekom Austria aus. derstandard.at 15.05.2015.
[3] Fabian Schmid, Markus Sulzbacher: NSA spionierte gezielt österreichische UPC-Kunden aus. derstandard.at 11.03.2015.
[4] See Beredtes Schweigen and Der Airbus für's Internet.
[5] Fabian Schmid, Markus Sulzbacher: NSA spionierte gezielt österreichische UPC-Kunden aus. derstandard.at 11.03.2015.
[6] BND hatte österreichischen Geheimdienst im Visier. www.mdr.at 05.05.2015.
[7] Für Zuarbeiten für Geheimdienste und Polizeien beschäftigt die Deutsche Telekom an ihren Standorten in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Hannover und Münster rund 40 Mitarbeiter. Andre Meister: Interne E-Mail: BND und Deutsche Telekom haben auch Österreich, Tschechien und Luxemburg abgehört (Update). netzpolitik.org 15.05.2015.
[8] Andre Meister: Interne E-Mail: BND und Deutsche Telekom haben auch Österreich, Tschechien und Luxemburg abgehört (Update). netzpolitik.org 15.05.2015.
[9] BND wertete Daten für eigene Zwecke aus. www.handelsblatt.com 02.05.2015. See Die neue deutsche Arroganz.
[10] Fabian Schmid: BND spionierte für NSA Leitungen der Telekom Austria aus. derstandard.at 15.05.2015.
[11] See Die neue deutsche Arroganz.
[12] See Eine deutsch-europäische NSA and Erfordernisse der Weltpolitik.
[13] Peter Neumann: Algorithmen und Agenten. Wo es gerade in Deutschland bei der Geheimdienstarbeit hapert. Internationale Politik November /Dezember 2014.
[14] See Leadership In and With Europe and Die Bilanz eines Jahres.