BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's office has proposed that a special investigator be appointed to inspect a list of targets that German intelligence tracked on behalf of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
Critics have accused Merkel's staff of giving the German BND foreign intelligence agency the green light to help the NSA spy on European firms and officials, triggering a scandal that has dented the chancellor's popularity.
In a letter to the parliamentary committee investigating the affair, parts of which were seen by Reuters, the chancellery said the investigator's mandate would be such that "an answer can follow, without disclosing concrete content from the list".
Merkel has come under increasing pressure to divulge the list of targets, including the IP addresses of individual computers, in an affair that has strained relations between her conservatives and their Social Democrat coalition partners.
The chancellery proposed that the government-appointed investigator be allowed to inspect the list of targets and report back to the committee. The results would also be shared with a parliamentary body responsible for supervising the BND.
The contents of the list are considered crucial to establishing whether the BND was at fault in helping the NSA.
In its letter, the chancellery said it did not expect the U.S. government to formally agree in the immediate future to the circulation of the list. It therefore suggested appointing the "trusted individual" who alone would see its contents.
Spying is a sensitive issue in Germany because of the abuses of the Nazi and Communist eras. Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging U.S. espionage in Germany caused outrage here when they surfaced, and this has now been compounded by the allegation that the BND was complicit.
(Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Andrew Roche)