Germany would like the world to believe in a simple narrative regarding privacy and surveillance: Unlike the NSA, Germany does not spy on its citizens, and it respects privacy rights.
But, like most things in Germany, it’s more complicated than that. Germany does monitor citizens and foreign nationals living within its borders—it just does so quietly. German intelligence officials meet regularly with American counterparts and share information on domestic and international threats. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution), and its foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Service), then use this information to police extremist activities within their borders.
The National Security Agency (NSA) has stepped up its surveillance of senior German government officials since being ordered by Barack Obama to halt its spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday.
Revelations last year about mass U.S. surveillance in Germany, in particular of Merkel's mobile phone, shocked Germans and sparked the most serious dispute between the transatlantic allies in a decade.