New NSA Leakers Reveal NSA Switched From Spying On Merkel… To All Her Chief Advisors

from the well,-of-course dept

It’s long forgotten now, but back in August, the US and Germany were said to be working on an agreement not to spy on each other’s governments. As we noted at the time, such an agreement would almost certainly be meaningless. Of course, that news came out after the initial Snowden leaks, but prior to the high profile news in October that the NSA was monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls. While President Obama (after first claiming he had no idea it was happening) promised Merkel that the NSA would stop spying on her phone calls, by January, those plans for a big “bilateral no-spy deal” were basically dead.

And, indeed, over the weekend, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that the NSA may have stopped bugging Merkel’s phone, but instead it had started bugging the phones of basically everyone around her, including pretty much every senior government official who reported to her. The report quotes a “high-ranking NSA employee in Germany” explaining what’s going on:

“We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we are no longer able to monitor the chancellor’s communication directly,” it quoted the NSA employee as saying.

This shouldn’t be that surprising. This is what the NSA is going to do, after all. But what amazes me about this story is the fact that it’s already leaked out, and that despite all the talk of cracking down on future leaks out of the NSA, the NSA already has another leaker releasing information that is clearly politically sensitive. So many folks like to point to Snowden as if he’s the only leaker the NSA ever had or ever will have. But it’s increasingly looking like there are others within the NSA who are equally uncomfortable with what’s become of the intelligence community.

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Comments on “New NSA Leakers Reveal NSA Switched From Spying On Merkel… To All Her Chief Advisors”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Not that the Germans probably don’t do the same. And it really is only a diplomacy issue. The real problem is when the Govt starts using the intelligence apparatus against its own citizens. Everything else is noise. The fact that the US spies on other countries is mere noise in this specific case.

I’m baffled that shit didn’t hit the fan when they were caught using that espionage to give American companies a competitive edge in the world (ie: commercial espionage).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Eh once again… something you expect your country to do.

While we expect them to spy on everyone else and give us advantages we never really expect them to spy on US and give OTHERS advantages.

I mean, sure, find the NSA tracks us all. Which would be fine, I guess… if they didn’t have the information so poorly kept any 30 year old CONTRACTOR can just scoop up that information, hop out of the country and then announce what he did and what he ran off with.

It’s like… Really? You are going to take all of our inforamtion and you have CONTRACTORS?! Guns for HIRE protect all of this sensitive information?? At this point we don’t want you spying on us anymore even if we thought it was necessary because you are so flipping incompetent we wouldn’t trust you with taking out the trash!

Then we find out you have been weakening… WEAKENING cryptography?! You’ve essentially made all of our systems EASIER to break into. These people should have been fired into the sun immediately. This is worse than weakening all locks on people’s doors in the country. People can break into my personal files online and destroy my life with ease.

We expect them to spy, that’s what spies do. We DON’T expect them to hire wolves to guard the sheep though. That’s what idiots do and idiots don’t make good spies.

Anonymous Coward says:

way more shocking than phone tapped

Best way to describe in real world terms the implications of metadata evah!

They don’t collect data from Merkel, just the metaphorical “metadata” of her life.

I bet Merkel would rather have just her phone tapped. The NSA know stuff about her personal and professional life that she doesn’t even know.

Arthur Moore (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because the NSA lets them have most of the data they get from spying in Germany, plus access to the US stuff. It’s a neat way for the German intelligence agencies to bypass Germany’s spy laws by having the NSA do it for them. Then there’s the fact that Germany probably has access to all that “useless” US telco metadata the NSA is gathering.

David says:

Re: Re:

Germany can’t kick out allied military (and the NSA belongs to the military). Germany is an occupied country according to the surrender conditions and they missed the golden opportunity of seeking release from the occupation statutes and asking back for their national sovereignty when reuniting with Eastern Germany.

So they still don’t have the actual right to show the door to the U.S. forces.

It’s really “you have to be bullshitting me” territory here.

zip says:

Re: Re: Re: surrender conditions.

The laws enacted by the post-war US occupation of Germany are still on the books. For instance, it’s a serious crime even today to ever dress up in a Nazi uniform, draw a swastika, give a Nazi-style salute or possess a copy of Mein Kampf in Germany, things that are all perfectly legal to do in the US.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 surrender conditions.

Germany (and SK) are not actually occupied nations. The reason we maintain armed forces there are because they want us to keep them there — in part because we pay them to do so. The last time we tried to pull our forces out of Germany, there was a big ruckus and they fought hard for us to stay.

The prohibitions against Nazi stuff is not because of the US, it’s because of German law.

Anonymous Coward says:

funny how when the ‘spying on Merkel’ was revealled, Obama said she ‘wasn’t being spied on now’. nothing was said about what the NSA were doing before the reveal and the opportunity to say what was happening instead of/as well as the spying that was conducted on her was totally ignored. i find it so troubling that the leader of what is supposedly the ‘greatest nation on earth’ is a liar! and even worse, not only does he not stop any further invasions, he doesn’t apologise or even attempt to come clean! how can any other nation trust the USA?

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a hard time believing that a high-ranking NSA employee in Germany, would be stupid enough to let a newspaper quote him, list his employer, and his location! There can’t be many NSA employees in Germany.

Sounds like someone’s about to get fried, if the story is true. Hopefully the leaker will be alright, but he/she is definitely acting sloppy, by letting the papers identify who their employer is, and where they work.

I recommend leakers use DeadDrop/SecureDrop/StrongBox, and for God sake, don’t identify yourself, who employes you, or your geographic location. Also, nobody is going to believe you unless you submit documents, photos, or video as proof of your assertions. Otherwise you’re just an unverifiable anonymous source.

I would never trust a journalist to keep my identity safe. That’s your responsibility. Even if a journalist wanted to keep you safe, chances are their phone location metadata will lead authorities right to the leaker, if they ever met face-to-face.

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