German government denies misleading lawmakers in spy probe

AP News
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Posted: Apr 29, 2015 1:47 PM
German government denies misleading lawmakers in spy probe

BERLIN (AP) — Senior German officials pledged Wednesday to cooperate with lawmakers probing claims of wrongdoing by the country's foreign intelligence agency and insisted that Parliament hadn't been misled about what the government did and didn't know of U.S. spying activity in Europe.

The move comes amid German media reports that the agency, known by its acronym BND, may have known about and even helped the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdrop on European officials and companies.

"I stand by my responsibility and want very much to help clarify the entire matter," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a statement. De Maiziere was Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff between 2005 and 2009, a role that includes oversight of the BND.

De Maiziere, who has been tipped as a possible successor to Merkel, said he regretted not being able to publicly refute allegations against him due to the secret nature of intelligence matters. But he asked lawmakers to invite him to speak behind closed doors "as quickly as possible."

The government had told lawmakers earlier this month that it had no information about U.S. economic espionage.

But weekly Der Spiegel and others reported that the BND was aware by 2010 that the NSA had asked it to monitor telecoms traffic in a way that could have gone against German interests. The Munich-based newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung cited secret government documents claiming the targets included senior officials in France and at the European Commission.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert declined Wednesday to say whether the assertion to lawmakers still held true. But he told reporters that the entire government "always informs Parliament to the best of its knowledge and in good faith."

The German government reacted with anger two years ago when reports based on U.S. intelligence documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggested that the NSA had eavesdropped on officials in Berlin, including on Merkel herself.

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Frank Jordans can be contacted at http://www.twitter.com/wirereporter