British and American intelligence have been monitoring traffic over satellite links owned by German companies, and have been targeting Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
The documents, seen by German newspaper Der Spiegel, reveal that British intelligence agency GCHQ has been monitoring several private German satellite companies, including Stellar, Cetel and IABG. They monitored company employees and infiltrated networks to develop “in-depth knowledge of key satellite IP service providers in Germany.
The surveillance work was largely carried out with the help of America’s NSA from GCHQ’s listening station at Bude, Cornwall, south-west England, and was aimed at internet exchange points. As well as monitoring traffic passing through these points, GCHQ also wanted to identifying important clients of these firms.
The leaked document also shows that GCHQ wanted to monitor employees at the company, listing names and email addresses of 16 employees at Stellar. CEO Christian Steffan told Der Spiegel he had no idea his employees were being monitored and was “shocked” to find that was the case.
At all three companies, the British intelligence agency was able to hack satellite ground stations, listen to traffic and obtain lists of important clients, including private businesses in Africa and the German military.
The document also shows that German Chancellor Merkel is on a list of 122 world leaders on an NSA database of surveillance targets. Australia’s IT News also says that as the document is marked “Top secret/Comint/Rel to USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL”, this means that the Australian and New Zealand governments will also have known that Merkel was being monitored.
Previous revelations of spying by the U.S. on the German Chancellor led to President Obama being forced to apologise to Merkel in October. These latest revelations suggest he may have to do so again.