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German spy agency collects huge metadata per day, relays it to US agencies.

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The main gate of Germany's spy agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) (file photo)

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, gathers 220 million pieces of metadata from foreign phone calls and text messages per day, relaying them to top US spy agencies the NSA and the CIA.

According to classified documents accessed by German Zeit newspaper, BND agents are instructed not to reveal details on how much data has been collected by the spy agency unless asked direct questions by the country’s parliamentary Oversight Committee, the daily reported on Friday.

The report cited ex-member of the Oversight Committee Gisela Piltz as saying that extracting information out of the BND was “always difficult.”

“You can only ask about concrete methods when you already know something about them,” she said. “Apparently the intelligence services don’t trust parliamentarians.”

The metadata, according to the daily, is collected at five different locations across Germany, and although most of the retrieved information is deleted within weeks, nearly one percent of the foreign call data is retained and archived for analysis.

Although it is not clear where the BND acquires such huge amount of data, Germany’s Bundestag parliamentary committee probing the US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance has established that the BND taps satellite communications and internet cables to obtain the massive records.

Since metadata does not include the content of calls or text messages but rather details such as the time and the location of the communication, BND agents questioned by German legislators have referred to its collection as “routine traffic.”

However, the daily said, when collected over time, metadata can reveal an individual’s movements and contacts and even make predictions of a surveillance subject’s potential pattern of behavior. For instance, the NSA spy agency exploits metadata to establish targets for its assassination drone strikes against what it regards as potential terror suspects.

This is while, in 2014, former American director of both the NSA and the CIA spy agencies Michael Hayden admitted that the US “kills people based on metadata.”


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