Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, has reportedly been spying on global media’s journalists for nearly two decades, a leading German weekly magazine reveals.
On Friday, Der Spiegel released an excerpt from a report due for publication on Saturday, revealing that the BND had been spying on the BBC, Reuters and The New York Times, among others, since 1999.
According to the report, the intelligence agency has allegedly monitored at least 50 telephone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses of journalists, newsrooms and editorial offices across the globe. It, however, added that it was not clear whether the surveillance was still ongoing, nor was it known who exactly the intelligence agency spied on.
The report also quoted media rights group Reporters Without Borders in Germany (ROG) as saying that the alleged surveillance was “a monstrous attack on press freedom,” expressing fears that the practice was still underway. The report added that the rights group was planning legal action against the BND.
“For a long time, we feared that the BND monitored journalists as part of its mass filtering of communication data,” added ROG Director Christian Mihr.
In late June last year, the German cabinet approved new measures to tighten controls over the surveillance activities of the BND, including new measures to prevent the intelligence agency from conducting espionage on countries in the European Union except in certain cases, like suspicion of a terrorist activity aimed at Germany's security.
The measured were approved a year after the spy agency came under fire for its cooperation with the US National Security Agency (NSA) to carry out espionage on high-ranking French officials and the European Commission.
The revelations sparked a heated debate in Germany about the role of the intelligence agency and the damage that the scandal can inflict on the country’s relations with other European nations.