BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany on Wednesday named a former senior judge as special investigator to inspect a list of targets that German intelligence tracked on behalf of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), causing a political uproar.
Critics have accused Chancellor Angela 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 Merkel's popularity.
Espionage is an especially sensitive issue in Germany because of abuses in the Nazi and Communist eras. Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging U.S. spying in close ally Germany caused outrage, which was compounded by allegations that the BND was complicit.
Merkel's coalition agreed on Kurt Graulich, a former judge at the Federal Administrative Court, to be the special investigator, according to the head of the parliamentary committee investigating NSA practices, Christian Flisek.
Opposition lawmakers had asked for details of the list, which is considered crucial to establishing whether German intelligence officials were at fault in helping the NSA.
But the chancellery has said it does not expect the U.S. government to formally agree in the immediate future to a public airing of the list. It therefore suggested appointing a "trusted individual" who alone would see its contents.
Last month, Merkel's office told the committee in a letter seen by Reuters that the investigator's mandate would be such that he could answer questions posed by lawmakers albeit without "disclosing concrete content from the list".
The chancellery proposed that the investigator be allowed to inspect the list of targets, including the IP addresses of individual computers, and report back to the committee.
(Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Mark Heinrich)