Berlin: The US has informed Germany that its National Security Agency prevented several terrorist attacks worldwide with the help of intelligence information gained from the controversial surveillance programmes.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who held high-level discussions in Washington on Friday on allegations of extensive NSA spying on German citizens, said he was assured by the American side that there has been no sweeping surveillance of Internet and telephone traffic by the NSA.
The snooping agency monitored the communication network for "specific expressions", which could be helpful in tracking down persons planning to carry out terrorist attacks or other crimes and these operations are backed by the US law, he said.
"The goal of saving human lives justifies Germany`s cooperation with the American intelligence agencies to prevent terrorists and criminals from causing damage to our citizens," Friedrich said in a TV interview last night.
Germany has been a beneficiary of the information provided by US intelligence agencies and "this shows how important it is to cooperate with the Americans", he said.
Friedrich, who held discussions with US Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney-General Eric Holder and National Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, said the American side showed understanding for Germany`s concerns and took them seriously.
The minister`s discussions in Washington were closely watched here as the American side so far has not responded to the German government`s demands for "full clarifications" on the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Germany was treated as a "third class" partner by the NSA and spied on so intensely as China, Saudi Arabia or Iraq.
Documents leaked by Snowden and published by the media in the past weeks showed that the NSA snooped into around half-a-billion Internet and telephone data from Germany every month and its operations reached up to the chancellor`s office.
The agency also bugged the EU headquarters in Brussels and diplomatic missions in New York and Washington, according to the documents.
Friedrich said the NSA`s surveillance programmes such as "Prism" are strictly focused on combating terrorism, spread of weapons of mass destruction and organised crime. However, he stressed the need for keeping a "proper balance" between protecting the citizens and safeguarding their private data.
The American side expressed readiness to declassify top secret information on the NSA`s surveillance operations and to share them with Germany, the minister said.
He also received an assurance from the US that NSA made no economic espionage on Germany as part of its operations.
Germany`s opposition parties, which are keen to make the spying scandal a campaign issue in the run up to the Parliamentary Election in September, lashed out at the minister for "bowing to the pressure" from the United States and "returning empty handed."
Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary floor leader of the social Democratic Party, criticised him for his failure to bring any new information on the alleged US operations.