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German chancellor on NSA’s “high-value targets” list


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Secret files newly published by the German magazine Der Spiegel and The Intercept provide a glimpse into the scope and nature of US and UK intelligence agencies' targeting of world leaders. Such spying appears more pervasive and intrusive than previously reported.

The documents, provided to journalists by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden and published on Saturday, highlight how German Chancellor Angela Merkel and more than 100 other foreign leaders have been placed in a top-secret surveillance database hosted by the NSA and have been subjected to heightened scrutiny. The Intercept also revealed that the Obama administration had obtained a top-secret court order permitting the agency to monitor German communications.

The documents contained in the NSA database, code-named Nymrod, indicate that 122 world leaders have been subjected to active surveillance by the spy agency. They reveal that Merkel and other world leaders—including the leaders of more obvious targets, like the presidents of Syria and Colombia—have been tracked in the Nymrod system's so-called “Target Knowledge Database,” which contains 300 automatically generated “cites” for the German Chancellor alone, according to Der Spiegel.

The Nymrod system automatically sifts through reports summarizing intercepted faxes, phone calls, and other communications collected by computers to discover information related to “high-value targets,” explained Der Spiegel. According to internal NSA files acquired by Der Spiegel, the system is intended “to find information related to targets that would otherwise be tough to track down."

The documents also show how the NSA’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has infiltrated German Internet firms in order to gain a wider understanding of the nature of Internet traffic flowing through Germany, explained Der Spiegel.

The GCHQ explicitly targeted three German companies, satellite communications providers Stellar and Cetel, and a security contracting and communications equipment provider, IABG, in addition to the companies’ employees. This despite no indications of any wrongdoing on any of their parts.

The Intercept explained:

GCHQ’s aim was to obtain information that could help the spies infiltrate “teleport” satellites sold by these companies that send and receive data over the Internet. The document notes that GCHQ hoped to identify “access chokepoints” as part of a wider effort alongside partner spy agencies to “look at developing possible access opportunities” for surveillance.

Diplomatic relations between the US and German governments have remained tense since it was originally reported that the NSA had been monitoring Merkel’s cell phone in recent years. A spokesman for Merkel, after learning of such reports, explained, “This would be a grave breach of trust,” continuing, “Such practices must immediately be put to a stop.”

In response, White House spokesman Jay Carney commented that surveillance of Merkel would not be continuing. “The president assured the chancellor the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor."


Edited by F3dupsk1Nup
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