German government on defensive over spying reports

German lawmakers called on the government to respond to reports that the country's intelligence agency spied on the United States.

Berlin: German lawmakers called on the government today to respond to reports that the country's intelligence agency spied on the United States and other allies.

 If true, the allegations reported by German media this week would undermine Berlin's professed indignation at claims that the US eavesdropped on targets in Germany, including Chancellor Angela Merkel herself.

 Lawmakers from the opposition Greens and Left Party said they would be seeking the release of so-called selectors used by Germany's BND spy agency for its intelligence gathering.

 These are lists of phone numbers, email addresses and other information that help intelligence agencies hunt for important information among the vast stream of phone and data traffic circling the globe.

 German weekly Der Spiegel, public broadcaster rbb-Inforadio and the Sueddeutsche daily reported Thursday that until the fall of 2013 the BND's selectors included targets belonging to the United States and other European countries.

 The selectors were reportedly wiped from the agency's list of targets around the same time Merkel declared that "spying among friends, that's just wrong" in response to claims her cellphone had been tapped by the US National Security Agency.

 Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin today that "the chancellor's pronouncement is valid, and naturally it was also valid when she said it for the first time." He declined to say whether the assertion was true before October 2013.

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