Germany’s Spy Agency Used NSA Software To Spy On Germans

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Internal documents show that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, received the coveted software program XKeyscore from the NSA – and promised data from Germany in return.

The agents from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, were deeply impressed. They wanted to be able to do that too. On Oct. 6, 2011, employees of the US intelligence agency NSA were in the Bavarian town of Bad Aibling to demonstrate all that the spy software XKeyscore could do. To make the demonstration as vivid as possible, the Americans fed data into their program that the BfV had itself collected during a warranted eavesdropping operation. An internal memo shows how enthusiastic the German intelligence agents were: Analyzing data with the help of the software, the memo reads in awkward officialese, resulted in “a high recognition of applications used, Internet applications and protocols.” And in the data, XKeyscore was able to “recognize, for example, Hotmail, Yahoo or Facebook. It was also able to identify user names and passwords.” In other words, it was highly effective.

It was far beyond the capabilities of the BfV’s own system. In response, then-BfV President Heinz Fromm made a formal request five months later to his American counterpart, NSA head Keith Alexander, for the software to be made available to the German intelligence agency. It would, he wrote, superbly complement..

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