Germany appoints senior judge to inspect list of NSA targets

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Merkel In Trouble Again Over Intelligence Services

Germany on Wednesday named a former senior judge as special investigator to inspect a list of targets that German intelligence tracked on behalf of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), causing a political uproar.

Critics have accused Chancellor Angela Merkel's staff of giving the German BND foreign intelligence agency the green light to help the NSA spy on European firms and officials, triggering a scandal that has dented Merkel's popularity.

Espionage is an especially sensitive issue in Germany because of abuses in the Nazi and Communist eras. Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging U.S. spying in close ally Germany caused outrage, which was compounded by allegations that the BND was complicit.

Merkel's coalition agreed on Kurt Graulich, a former judge at the Federal Administrative Court, to be the special investigator, according to the head of the parliamentary committee investigating NSA practices, Christian Flisek.

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Germany appoints senior judge to inspect list of NSA targets
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 02: A woman rides a bicycle past the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture on July 2, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The online whistleblower platform Wikileaks claims to have documents showing the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on German government ministries, including the ministries of finance, economy and agriculture, in the period from 2010 to 2012. The NSA has come under repeated criticism for supposedly spying on European government and political leaders. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 02: Signs are seen on the wall of the Federal Ministry for Economy and Energy at dusk on July 1, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The online whistleblower platform Wikileaks claims to have documents showing the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on German government ministries, including the ministries of finance, economy and agriculture, in the period from 2010 to 2012. The NSA has come under repeated criticism for supposedly spying on European government and political leaders. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pulls her earphone during a joint press conference with the Prime Minster of Italy, Matteo Renzi, as part of a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery Ronald Pofalla speaks during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Monday Aug. 12, 2013. The senior German official says Germany and the U.S. will begin talks this month on an agreement not to spy on one another in wake of the revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, told reporters such an agreement would offer a unique opportunity to set standards for future work of Western intelligence agencies after the Cold War. U.S. Embassy spokesman Peter Claussen said he had no immediate comment to Pofalla's remarks, which were made following a meeting of a parliamentary committee overseeing intelligence services. (AP Photo/dpa,Rainer Jensen)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech on the second day of a four days debate of a debt free national budget for 2015 at the parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the final four days debate of a debt free national budget for 2015 at the parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Demonstrators hold a poster showing a portrait of German Chancellor Angela Merkel reading "surveillance Chancellor" and a fake surveillance camera during a protest against the supposed surveillance by the US National Security Agency, NSA, and the German intelligence agency, BND, during a rally in front of the construction site of the new headquarters of German intelligence agency in Berlin, Germany, Monday July 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
The president of German Intelligence Agency (BND) Gerhard Schindler stands in front of the giant golf ball-shaped radomes in Bad Aibling, near Munich , Germany, Friday June 6, 2014. Germany's foreign intelligence agency officially lifted the lid on some of its worst-kept secrets Friday, acknowledging that half a dozen facilities around the country are in fact spy stations — as anyone with Internet access could already figure out. The agency was holding a ceremony at the site in Bad Aibling Friday to attach its logo officially to the entrance. (AP Photo/dpa, Stephan Jansen)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during an address to the Lowy Institute in Sydney Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. Merkel is in Australia to attend the G-20 summit in Brisbane and an official visit to Sydney and Canberra.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A satellite dish is photographed inside of a receiver, a so-called Radom, at the German Intelligence Agency,BND , facility near the Mangfall barracks in Bad Aibling,, near Munich Germany, Friday June 6, 2014. Germany's foreign intelligence agency officially lifted the lid on some of its worst-kept secrets Friday, acknowledging that half a dozen facilities around the country are in fact spy stations — as anyone with Internet access could already figure out. (AP Photo/dpa,Stephan Jansen)
The president of the German Intelligence Agency, BND, , Gerhard Schindler, stands in front of a facility with a new attached logo in Bad Aibling, Germany Friday June 6, 2014. Germany's foreign intelligence agency officially lifted the lid on some of its worst-kept secrets Friday, acknowledging that half a dozen facilities around the country are in fact spy stations — as anyone with Internet access could already figure out. (AP Photo/dpa, Stephan Jansen)
Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery Ronald Pofalla speaks during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Monday Aug. 12, 2013. The senior German official says Germany and the U.S. will begin talks this month on an agreement not to spy on one another in wake of the revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, told reporters such an agreement would offer a unique opportunity to set standards for future work of Western intelligence agencies after the Cold War. U.S. Embassy spokesman Peter Claussen said he had no immediate comment to Pofalla's remarks, which were made following a meeting of a parliamentary committee overseeing intelligence services. (AP Photo/dpa,Tim Brakemeier)
Demonstrators hold a banner during a protest against the supposed surveillance by the US National Security Agency, NSA, and the German intelligence agency, BND, during a rally in front of the construction site of the new headquarters of German intelligence agency in Berlin, Germany, Monday July 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
Demonstrators hold a placard during a protest against the supposed surveillance by the US National Security Agency, NSA, and the German intelligence agency, BND, during a rally in front of the construction site of the new headquarters of German intelligence agency in Berlin, Germany, Monday July 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel reflects in a glass window of the visitors tribune as she delivers her speech on the second day of a four days debate of a debt free national budget for 2015 at the parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and the Prime Minister of Kosovo Isa Mustafa brief the media after bilateral talks at the chancellery in Berlin, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
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Opposition lawmakers had asked for details of the list, which is considered crucial to establishing whether German intelligence officials were at fault in helping the NSA.

But the chancellery has said it does not expect the U.S. government to formally agree in the immediate future to a public airing of the list. It therefore suggested appointing a "trusted individual" who alone would see its contents.

Last month, Merkel's office told the committee in a letter seen by Reuters that the investigator's mandate would be such that he could answer questions posed by lawmakers albeit without "disclosing concrete content from the list".

The chancellery proposed that the investigator be allowed to inspect the list of targets, including the IP addresses of individual computers, and report back to the committee.

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