November 11, 2015 / 9:15 AM / 2 years ago

Germany seeks clarity on whether spy agency snooped on own diplomat

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service spied on a German diplomat, possibly violating the constitution, and on allies including French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, a German radio station reported on Wednesday.

Officials firmly declined to comment on the report, but the parliamentary committee that oversees intelligence agencies was due to meet later in the day with the issue to be discussed.

The report by the Berlin-based rbb Inforadio was the latest twist in a growing scandal over the activities of Germany’s BND stemming from revelations in 2013 by U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

Without identifying its sources, rbb said the BND had monitored German Hansjoerg Haber, from 2008-2011 head of the EU’s observer mission in Georgia and then a senior diplomat in Brussels. He is now head of the EU’s mission in Turkey and married to a state secretary in the Interior Ministry.

The BND declined to comment. A government spokeswoman, quizzed for about 20 minutes at a regular news conference, declined to comment on the report directly and said the oversight body worked “without discussing everything in public”.

German citizens are protected by the country’s constitution and not allowed to be spied on. Privacy is a sensitive issue in Germany due to extensive surveillance by Communist East Germany’s Stasi secret police and by the Nazi era Gestapo.

Other BND targets have included France’s Laurent Fabius and individuals at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the World Health Organisation, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and firms in the United States, rbb - which stands for Radio Berlin-Brandenburg - reported.

Snowden revealed widespread U.S. surveillance in Germany, including bugging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Since then a scandal has erupted over the BND’s own activities and how much it helped the NSA.

The oversight committee is scrutinizing BND activity, especially after revelations this year that it indirectly helped the NSA spy on European firms such as Airbus.

Last month, Justice Minister Heiko Maas called for tighter controls on the BND after reports that its spies had targeted embassies of allied countries without the government’s express permission.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Sabine Siebold, writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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