German intelligence authorities have denied a report that the US agency at the center of a major snooping scandal is building a new base in Germany. The US Army claims the facility will deal with military intelligence.
Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) on Thursday denied that a new facility being built in Wiesbaden would be a base for US intelligence operatives from the NSA.
The plan was said to have been confirmed by BND President Gerhardt Schindler at parliament's Interior Committee on Wednesday. The German daily newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung cited the information as coming from sources connected with committee.
However, the BND said that the report of Schindler's testimony had been "incorrect."
"According to statements to the media by the US military and others over a long period, the new construction in Wiesbaden is a US Army project about which the BND has nothing else to say," said a BND statement.
The US has insisted that a 124-million-euro ($163-million) facility under construction at its military base in Wiesbaden-Erbenheim (pictured) is purely for military intelligence. The Consolidated Intelligence Center, responsible for data-gathering from 51 countries - including Russia and Israel - is to be completed by the end of 2015.
Ahead of the BND denial, the opposition voiced unease about the NSA's reported involvement and called for more details to be released. "We cannot accept that half of Europe will be listened in upon from Hesse," said Green party defense expert Omid Nouripour.
'Government is an accomplice'
The interior affairs spokesman for the Left party, Ulla Jelpke, described the plan as an "audacity," vowing to do her utmost to prevent it from happening. She accused the government, which has itself expressed concern about the extent of NSA data gathering, of being hypocritical.
"By accepting an NSA surveillance center in Wiesbaden, the government is making itself an accomplice in the biggest snooping scandal in the history of the Federal Republic," said Jelpke.
Pressure has been growing on the German government to take a harder line with the US over allegations that German citizens have been spied upon as part of the NSA's surveillance program.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich travelled to Washington last week, reportedly to glean more information about US intelligence-gathering operations, in particular the secret project known as PRISM. His visit was described as "a show" by opposition Social Democrat chief, Sigmar Gabriel.
Details of the NSA's activities were revealed by former US intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden, who said that the agency mined data from European and other users of online services such as Facebook and Google.
German authorities on Wednesday denied that they had known anything about PRISM, despite the German military in Afghanistan being informed of a project with the same name in September 2011. The BND said in a statement on Wednesday that that program was run by NATO and the International Security Assistance Force and distinct from the one run by the NSA.
rc /tj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
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