Fresh insight into the trove of documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed that US spies intercepted sensitive communications between Germany's security agencies during a kidnapping in Yemen.
Exactly how the NSA managed to get its hands on internal information from the BKA and BND is not revealed in the new documents. The list is part of an internal NSA presentation about one of the biggest online dragnet programs, which the agency developed and operated together with telecoms giant AT&T. The program carried the name "Fairview."
Among other things, it was developed to intercept the large, fiber optic cables running along the ocean floor -- the Internet's intercontinental arteries -- enabling emails to be read and telephone conversations to be tapped. It was likely through this access point that the NSA got ahold of the German agencies' communications.
This new information again raises the question for the German government of just how intensely the Americans were spying on the country's intelligence services in addition to spying on the government in Berlin. The new Snowden documents confirm the suspicion that the Americans were simultaneously cooperating with the BND and unapologetically spying on them.
The German government has known since 2010 that the BND was helping the NSA to surveil European and German citizens and institutions. Federal prosecutors recently pressed charges against a BND employee for allegedly providing the CIA with secret agency documents for €95,000.
The latest document from the Snowden archive shows that the Americans complemented their knowledge about German agencies with information gleaned from their mass surveillance programs.