The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV -- Germany's domestic spy agency) coveted access to Xkeyscore, the NSA's flagship tool for searching and analyzing mass-surveillance data, so they secretly, illegally traded access to Germans' data with the NSA for it.
In internal memos, the German spy agency said the deal had "far-reaching legal implications" -- which is spookese for "we are totally breaking the law here." The German Data Commissioner was not informed about the arrangement.
It was a good deal for the BfV. Being given the software was a "proof of trust," one BfV agent exulted. Another called XKeyscore a "cool system." Politically and legally, however, the accord is extremely delicate. Nobody outside of the BfV oversees what data is sent to the NSA in accordance with the "Terms of Reference," a situation that remains unchanged today. Neither Germany’s data protection commissioner nor the Parliamentary Control Panel, which is responsible for oversight of the BfV, has been fully informed about the deal. "Once again, I have to learn from the press of a new BfV-NSA contract and of the impermissible transfer of data to the US secret service," complains the Green Party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele, who is a member of the Parliamentary Control Panel. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, for its part, insists that it has adhered strictly to the law...
...Germany’s domestic intelligence agency is itself also aware of just how sensitive its deal with the Americans is. Back in July 2012, a BfV division warned that even the tests undertaken with XKeyscore could have "far-reaching legal implications." To determine the extent of the software’s capabilities, the division warned, employees would have to be involved who didn’t have the appropriate security clearance to view the data used in the tests. The BfV has declined to make a statement on how, or whether, the problem was solved.
A Dubious Deal with the NSA [Kai Biermann and Yassin Musharbash/Zeit]
(via Ars Technica)
(Image: From bhad to whorse, Daniel Oines, CC-BY)