BND, NSA, MgT

The row between Germany and the US in connection with the activities of secret service agencies is not ending.

When it became evident last year that the US National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone conversations, the relationship became strained. Even though things cooled down after a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Merkel, the controversy was not resolved. While the Germans expressed their anger, noting that friends would not wiretap each other, they soon realized that the proper thing to do is to take measures rather than relying on a discourse that highlights friendship.

Pretty soon, press reports indicated that the German secret service “Der Bundesnachrichtendienst” (BND) wiretapped Turkey. But no crisis occurred between Berlin and Ankara. Turkey responded calmly to these reports. The US expected a similar response from the Germans, and did not see why Germany made a big deal out of this. The NSA chairman, noting that they carried on with all their activities with the support of the German secret service, stressed that the word “secret” was meaningless in that context. But nobody fully understood that statement back then.

Recent news reports also indicate that the BND has been operating as one of the affiliates of the US secret service. The BND seems to have collected intelligence about politicians, diplomats and important figures of other “friends,” countries like France and Austria, as well as EU institutions, and communicated this intelligence to the NSA. The BND also wiretapped European and German firms and referred the raw information and analyses to Washington.

The opposition, quite rightly, argues that this is espionage and should be properly prosecuted under the relevant laws. Espionage is considered treason under German law. The federal prosecutor says they are paying attention to this issue. Because there is no immunity for secret service agents in countries where supremacy of law is honored, prosecutors can make progress in a very short time. But everyone is now curious about the scope of the investigation.

The BND-NSA cooperation has been designed in broad terms. Americans gave a number of key terms or phone numbers like .eu, .gov or .diplo to the Germans. The BND, relying on this data, scanned phone calls, emails, fax messages and other means of communication and then forwarded all the findings to Washington. Well, you must be sure that the Americans used this information for the security of Germany, Europe and the world. You know that Europe created Airbus with public support to address the monopoly of the US in the aviation industry. Today, Airbus is the only serious alternative to Boeing in aircraft production. The BND wiretapped Airbus and then forwarded the intelligence to the NSA. Do you think the NSA, created to observe American national security considerations, transferred this information to Boeing?

In other words, this is textbook industrial espionage. It seems that Airbus is ready to take the issue to international arbitration to seek reparations. If other wiretapped firms follow the same step, the amount of reparations may be huge. For now, the issue is being discussed in the media, but it is now evident that the Americans, with support from the BND, wiretapped French President Francois Hollande. American envoy to Berlin John Emerson must have realized the gravity of this situation that he admitted that the cooperation between the secret services has never been a mystery.

It would not be wrong to assume that the BND-NSA cooperation has affected Ankara and that their efforts have included the .gov emails. A more important question is about where the National Intelligence Organization (MiT) stands. There is reason to believe that the cooperation between the American and German intelligence services includes a focus on MiT as well. For the NSA, MiT is more interesting than the BND because in fully democratic countries, the role and function of the BND and the NSA is limited to external intelligence.

However, MiT’s duties are relevant to many other areas. To avoid similar mistakes, the Germans are discussing further inspections and measures. But in Turkey, politicians discuss how to make MiT immune to external inspections, including Parliament. This is because of the understanding that treason is something that others could commit and that it is not something MiT can be involved in. Am I wrong?

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN