Germany cancels an information-sharing pact with the United States and Britain
The agreement dates back to the Cold War era
German foreign minister says move is the necessary response to recent privacy debates
Claims by U.S. leaker Edward Snowden of mass surveillance have upset some Germans
Germany has canceled a decades-old agreement on information-sharing with Britain and the United States, in the wake of controversy sparked by American leaker Edward Snowden’s disclosures about mass surveillance programs.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry announced the move Friday, saying it was effective immediately.
Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said cancellation of the pact – which dates back to the late 1960s – “was a necessary and a correct consequence resulting from the latest debates in regards to protect privacy.”
The move is largely symbolic but reflects the public pressure Germany’s leaders have been under following the revelations by Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor.
A UK Foreign Office spokesman said the 1968 agreement had been stopped after a request from Berlin.
He described the arrangement as “a bit of a loose end” which “hasn’t been used since at least 1990.”
The issue dominated a conversation last month between President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Other European nations, including France, have also voiced concern.
The White House last month promised joint EU-American discussions on the collection and oversight of intelligence, and questions of privacy and data protection.
The row blew up after German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that classified leaks by Snowden detailed NSA bugging of European Union offices in Washington and New York, as well as an “electronic eavesdropping operation” that tapped into an EU building in Brussels.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency operates within a strong legal framework.
A UK parliamentary committee found last month that media claims GCHQ had made use of a U.S. mass surveillance program known as PRISM to illegally spy on UK citizens were “unfounded.”