BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming under increasing pressure to divulge a list of targets, including the IP addresses of individual computers, that German intelligence tracked on behalf of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
Critics have accused Merkel’s staff of giving the BND foreign intelligence agency the green light to help the NSA spy on European firms and officials, triggering a scandal that has dented the chancellor’s popularity.
The affair has strained relations between Merkel’s conservatives and their junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), whose leader Sigmar Gabriel has publicly challenged her over her role in the affair.
Gabriel said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the German parliament needed to see the list, which contains “selectors” such as names, search terms and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the unique identifiers that enable computers to communicate via the Internet.
The government has said it must consult with Washington before revealing the list, whose contents are considered crucial to establishing whether the BND was at fault in helping the NSA.
Spying is a sensitive issue in Germany because of the abuses of the Nazi and Communist eras. Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging U.S. espionage in Germany caused outrage here when they surfaced, and this has now been compounded by the allegation that the BND was complicit.
Gabriel, who is also vice chancellor, said: “Imagine if there were suspicions that the NSA had helped the BND to spy on American firms. Congress wouldn’t hesitate for a second before looking into the documents.”
SPD General Secretary Yasmin Fahimi told Tagesspiegel newspaper Germany should not “beg” the United States for permission to disclose the list, and Merkel “shouldn’t be subservient to the USA”.
News magazine Der Spiegel said the issue had driven a wedge between Gabriel and the SPD’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is also foreign minister.
Its report, which did not cite its sources, said while Gabriel was calling for the list to be released despite possible U.S. resistance, Steinmeier did not think this advisable and had called the SPD leader to express his concerns.
Conservative politician Patrick Sensburg, who heads a parliamentary committee investigating the NSA affair, accused the SPD of political point-scoring.
He said he was sure Berlin would find a way to let committee members see the list but this would not be enough, as it also needed explanations of why certain search terms were chosen.
Additional reporting by Thorsten Severin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan