Documents reveal international surveillance cooperation
European intelligence agencies are working together in mass surveillance operations to collect data from internet and phone traffic, according to files leaked by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
As reported in The Guardian, the NSA documents show that intelligence agencies in Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands have been developing methods for intelligence gathering in cooperation with British agency GCHQ since 2008.
Methods included tapping into fibre-optic cables and forging close relationships with telecommunications companies.
The documents include an appraisal by GCHQ of intelligence agencies in Germany and other European countries with which it cooperates.
The Guardian also reports that GCHQ worked to help change or bypass laws in some European countries to make surveillance easier.
In particular, GCHQ seemed pleased when Sweden passed a law in 2008 allowing its intelligence agency, FRA, to tap directly into fibre-optic cables for bulk surveillance.
“FRA have obtained a…. probe to use as a test-bed and we expect them to make rapid progress in IP exploitation following the law change,” the documents stated.
“GCHQ has already provided a lot of advice and guidance on these issues and we are standing by to assist the FRA further once they have developed a plan for taking the work forwards,” it continued.
The documents also make clear that GCHQ was working with German intelligence agency BND to alter laws in order to facilitate easier intelligence gathering within Germany. “We have been assisting the BND in making the case for reform or reinterpretation of the very restrictive interception legislation in Germany,” the document states.
The revelations come at a bad time for Germany, as last week the government voiced its outrage at excessive US surveillance measures, in particular the NSA’s monitoring of chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls.
On Friday, Germany and Brazil circulated a draft resolution to a UN General Assembly committee calling for an end to excessive electronic surveillance and data collection.