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13:27, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
10:50, 05 October 2014 Sunday

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Germany's Merkel under fire over NSA scandal
Germany's Merkel under fire over NSA scandal

The German secret service provided Internet data about German citizens to the American National Secutiry Agency, a top-secret report reveals.

World Bulletin / News Desk

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under increasing fire in a data sharing scandal that broke on Saturday.

A report in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper revealed that Germany's secret service shared Internet data about German citizens with the American National Security Agency (NSA).

The report showed that, for years, Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst had monitored a key international Internet exchange point in Frankfurt, and shared the raw data about Internet users with the NSA.

While the secret service intended initially to filter and to delete sensitive raw data belonging to German citizens, the German agency confirmed in its recent report that an “absolute and error-free” practice was not maintained between the years 2004 and 2008.

At least 5 percent of the data belonging to German citizens had been shared with the NSA, according to the report, which was presented to the NSA inquiry committee at the Federal Parliament.

“This practice has been a deliberate and massive violation of the constitution,” commented Bernd Riexinger, Co-Chair of the main opposition Left Party, in an interview with the business daily Handelsblatt. “This also strengthens the suspicion that the BND has acted as the German branch of the NSA,” he stressed.

The Green Party demanded an immediate explanation from the government and asked for an end to these practices that violate the constitution and the human rights.

“If it becomes evident that the parliamentary committees were deliberately misinformed in the past, than we cannot continue business as usual,” senior Green Party lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele said in a written statement.

“This also shows that the main argument of Chancellor Merkel so far, that is to say, ‘On German territory, German law must be complied with’ was untrue,” he stressed.

Merkel herself had been targeted by the NSA’s surveillance.

The scandal was uncovered late last year by the German news magazine Der Spiegel. An examination of the top secret files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that the German chancellor was on a list of people targeted by NSA.

Snowden claimed that NSA had regular cooperation with the German secret services, but also carried out its own surveillance activities targeting Germany. According to Snowden, the NSA had collected about half a billion communications each month from Germany.

U.S.-German relations suffered significant damage after the scandal.

Merkel criticized the U.S. spying program, saying “spying on friends is not acceptable." She has called on the US to clarify serious allegations and make steps to rebuild trust between the two allies.

Washington and Berlin have started talks on a potential “no-spy agreement” late last year, but these talks fell into a stalemate.

Another intelligence scandal in July involving US secret service activities in Germany resulted in with a top CIA official asked to leave the country by Berlin.

German authorities had revealed that an employee of the German secret service and an official from the Defense Ministry had passed on information and secret documents to the U.S. agency since 2012.

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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.