April 23, 2015 / 6:29 PM / 3 years ago

Germany orders intelligence agency to fix flaws in operations

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government has ordered its foreign intelligence agency to address flaws in some of its operations, after Der Spiegel reported that agency officials indirectly helped U.S. agencies spy on European firms such as defense manufacturer Airbus.

Surveillance is a sensitive issue in Germany, after its experience of abuse by the Gestapo under the Nazis and by the Stasi in Communist East Germany during the Cold War years.

“The chancellery has identified technical and organizational shortcomings at the BND,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement, without elaborating.

“The chancellery has ordered that these be fixed without delay.”

He said the government would not comment on whether media reports on the BND helping U.S. agencies were accurate. But he noted: “There is still no evidence of mass surveillance of German and European citizens.”

Magazine Der Spiegel reported in its online edition that BND officials indirectly helped the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on European targets, including German interests, over a period of more than 10 years.

BND officials provided intelligence data in up to 40,000 instances after U.S. requests, the report said, adding that one of the NSA targets was the Franco-German aerospace company EADS, which renamed itself Airbus Group last year.

Der Spiegel said BND officials passed Internet IP addresses as well as mobile phone numbers to the NSA. These issues were first detected internally in 2008 but were not fully reported to the chancellery until last month, it said.

A BND spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Washington carried out large-scale electronic espionage in Europe provoked outrage in Germany.

Reports the NSA even monitored Merkel’s mobile phone added to the anger in Berlin, which has pushed, so far in vain, for a ‘no spying’ agreement with the United States.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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