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More NSA spying leaks land Brits in hot water with Germany
November 6, 2013, 5:40 am

The white structure near the Berlin flag atop the British embassy is believed to house monitoring equipment [Getty Images]

The white structure near the Berlin flag atop the British embassy is believed to house monitoring equipment [Getty Images]

It’s the kind of story that could have made for a Cold War thriller or been plucked out of the pages of an Ian Fleming novel, but German officials aren’t particularly amused over reports that their British “allies” were running a secret spying operation out of Berlin.

On Tuesday, the German government called in the British ambassador to explain a story published in The Independent claiming that London had a “top secret listening post” operated from the roof of the British embassy in Berlin.

The story was based on information leaked to the daily by Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency whistleblower who fled Washington in June and ultimately was given asylum in Russia.

While the newspaper said that the US closed down its spying base atop its embassy in Berlin, the British continued with their covert operation.

“But the NSA documents, in conjunction with aerial photographs and  information about past spying activities in Germany, suggest that Britain is operating its own covert listening station within a stone’s throw of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, and Ms Merkel’s offices in the Chancellery, using hi-tech equipment housed on the embassy roof,” The Independent reported on Tuesday.

The German government is now in an untenable position of having to explain why two of its strongest allies and NATO partners had it in their crosshairs.

“The head of the European department asked for a response to current reports in the British media, and pointed out that the interception of communications from the premises of a diplomatic mission would be behaviour contrary to international law,” a statement from the German Foreign Ministry said.

The fallout of revelations that the US had been spying on allies and enemies alike has made international headlines in recent weeks.

On October 22, France condemned Washington’s overseas espionage when French media revealed that at least 70 million phone calls had been ‘spied’ on by US intelligence services during a period of four weeks at the beginning of the year.

Three days earler, the Mexican foreign ministry said the espionage was “unacceptable, unlawful and is contrary to Mexican law and international law”.

In September, Brazil responded firmly to revelations it was a target of NSA spying. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled a previously scheduled official state visit to the US and during the General Assembly two weeks ago accused Washington of being in breach of international law.

In July, US ally Germany also condemned US spying on its officials and senior ranking politicians.

Lode Vanoost, a former deputy speaker of the Belgian Parliament and international consultant, says that the US is losing economic power and that this could fuel an urge to spy on allies.

“US snooping on the EU, its most trusted ally, can therefore only mean one thing – this is about economic spying and about gathering economic information,” he writes for The BRICS Post.