German BND

Long portrayed as a victim of snooping by allies, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government on Monday grappled with embarrassing reports of German spying on European firms on behalf of the United States.

The German chancellor’s office was informed in 2008 during Merkel’s first term of German involvement in US economic espionage but did not react, the Bild daily reported Monday, citing intelligence agency documents.

Hard on the heels of media reports last week, questions have now arisen about the oversight and management of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency as well as its supervision at the highest political levels.

The US National Security Agency (NSA) sought to spy on businesses in Europe such as Airbus via the BND’s monitoring station at Bad Aibling in the southern state of Bavaria, the mass circulation newspaper said.

Bild said it had seen two documents sent by the BND to the chancellery in Berlin in 2008 and 2010 to inform it of the NSA snooping.

The documents cited by Bild refer to NSA attempts to keep tabs on telephone numbers and email addresses at EADS, the aerospace and defence group now known as Airbus, and Eurocopter, which now goes by the name of Airbus Helicopters.

Questioned by reporters, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry said that Paris and Berlin were “in close contact” to clear up the matter.

Germany reacted with outrage at revelations in 2013 by fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden that the NSA was conducting massive Internet and phone data sweeps, including in Germany.