News / Europe

Report: Europe's Spies Work Together on Mass Surveillance

FILE - Copies of the Guardian newspaper are displayed at a news agent in London, Aug. 21 2013.
FILE - Copies of the Guardian newspaper are displayed at a news agent in London, Aug. 21 2013.
Spy agencies across Western Europe are working together on mass surveillance of Internet and phone traffic comparable to programs run by their U.S. counterpart denounced by European governments, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday.

Citing documents leaked by fugitive former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, the Guardian said methods included tapping into fiber optic cables and working covertly with private telecommunications companies.

The Guardian named Germany, France, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands as countries where intelligence agencies had been developing such methods in cooperation with counterparts including Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ.

The report is potentially embarrassing for governments, especially in Germany and France which have been the most vocal in protesting about U.S. mass surveillance of European communication networks revealed by Snowden since June.

Germany, jointly with Brazil, circulated a draft resolution to a U.N. General Assembly committee on Friday that called for an end to excessive electronic surveillance, data collection and other gross invasions of privacy.

There has been particular anger in Germany, a close ally of the United States, over the revelation that the NSA monitored the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Snowden has written an open letter to Merkel and other German authorities to say he is counting on international support to stop Washington's “persecution” of him.

The Guardian reported that GCHQ files leaked by Snowden showed the British agency taking credit for advising European counterparts on how to get around domestic laws intended to restrict their surveillance powers.

“Huge technological potential" 

Citing a 2008 GCHQ country-by-country report, the Guardian said the British spies were particularly impressed with Germany's BND agency, which they said had “huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the Internet”.

“We have been assisting the BND... in making the case for reform or reinterpretation of the very restrictive interception legislation in Germany,” the GCHQ document said, according to the Guardian.

The GCHQ had also praised France's DGSE agency and in particular its close ties with an unnamed telecommunications company, a relationship from which GCHQ hoped to benefit.

“We have made contact with the DGSE's main industry partner, who has some innovative approaches to some Internet challenges, raising the potential for GCHQ to make use of this company in the protocol development arena,” the report said.

There was similar analysis of the intelligence agencies in Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands, with Spain's CNI praised for its ties with an unnamed British telecommunications firm and Sweden's FRA congratulated over a law passed in 2008 that widened surveillance powers.

Asked about the Guardian's report, Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) said it was natural that it had contacts with similar organizations in other countries.

FRA spokesman Fredrik Wallin said cooperation with foreign intelligence services could include exchanges of intelligence reports. He declined to comment on specific countries but said all activities were strictly controlled by Swedish law.

“There is a clear legal framework which determines how we cooperate with other countries,” he said.

You May Like

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Allen Bunch
November 03, 2013 2:00 AM
You really need to get out of the house more often if you actually believe anything on the internet or air waves can be private.

Come on home Eddie boy. America will be glad to give you a place to stay until the day you die.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs