US spy grid spares no country, even Germany
BERLIN - US secret services keep tabs on around half a billion telephone calls, emails or mobile phone text messages in Germany a month, making it the most targeted among EU states, a German news magazine reported Sunday, citing secret US documents.
The latest allegations over the extent of US spying in the EU's top economy appear in Der Spiegel and are likely to ratchet up already strained transatlantic tensions.
Germany has reacted to revelations of vast US and British spy programmes with particular alarm, given its dark history of state surveillance and secret police abuses under the Nazis and the communist East German regime.
The issue was high on the agenda of talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama in Berlin earlier in the month.
And the German government has written letters to both British and US authorities demanding answers over the programmes.
The Spiegel report cited figures from National Security Agency (NSA) documents which, the magazine said it had seen, showing that half a billion forms of communication -- phone calls, emails, text messages and Internet chat entries -- were monitored every month.
The metadata -- showing when a communication was made and with whom -- are saved at the agency's headquarters, it said, without going into the content.
The information showed that in December the agency intercepted metadata from on average around 15 million phone conversations daily and about 10 million Internet connections.
But on some days, the figures were much higher.
It gave a comparison for France where Spiegel said the US recorded data from a daily average of around two million connections in the same timeframe, adding that the NSA was more active in Germany than any other EU country.
Spiegel also said an internal classification revealed that Germany was categorised as a "third party" partner. "We can attack the signals of most foreign third-party partners -- and do so too," it quoted a NSA presentation as saying.
Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which are second-party partners, are exempt from surveillance, it added.
According to fresh allegations attributed to US fugitive Edward Snowden, Spiegel also reports in its latest edition that Washington targeted EU offices in Brussels and the United States.
Germany's justice minister called for an immediate explanation over the report, saying the alleged US intelligence activity was reminiscent of the Cold War.