The London-based Independent newspaper revealed Monday that British intelligence had established a "secret listening post" in the British Embassy like the one recently revealed by SPIEGEL to be in the US Embassy on the same large block. The British post, like the American one, is located near the German parliament, the Reichstag, and was disclosed in the trove of data leaked by American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The British eavesdropping equipment is likely housed on embassy grounds in a white cylindrical, tent-like structure that has been there since the embassy opened in 2000. The equipment is reportedly able to intercept mobile phone and Wi-Fi signals as well as "long-distance communications across the German capital," presumably including in the Reichstag and Merkel's nearby Chancellery.
The revelation has the potential to cause another deep rift between Germany and a close ally. The news that the United States was spying on Merkel's cellphone prompted angry reactions from German leaders, including a furious phone call from Merkel to US President Barack Obama, and discussions about sanctions and new anti-spying rules directed against the Americans. When contacted by the British newspaper, representatives from both the GCHQ, the British spying agency, and the government of Prime Minister David Cameron declined to comment.
The head of German Parliamentary Intelligence Committee has called for inquiries into alleged spying from the British embassy in Berlin. Thomas Oppermann said the committee has asked both Germany's law enforcement services and its intelligence services to investigate the alleged ''crime''. A member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, (Christian Democrat-CDU), mooted a formal ''no-spy'' agreement with the UK.
Berlin is not the only victim of British spying tactics. Belgium was also subject of cyber attack from its ally: United Kingdom. Documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that Britain's GCHQ intelligence service was behind a cyber attack against Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian telecoms company.
A "top secret" Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) presentation indicate that the goal of project, conducted under the codename "Operation Socialist," was "to enable better exploitation of Belgacom" and to improve understanding of the provider's infrastructure.
When news first emerged of the cyber attack, suspicions in Belgium were initially directed at the NSA. But the presentation suggests that it was Belgium's own European Union partner Britain that is behind "Operation Socialist," even though the presentation indicates that the British used spying technology for the operation that the NSA had developed.
According to the slides in the GCHQ presentation, the attack was directed at several Belgacom employees and involved the planting of a highly developed attack technology referred to as a "Quantum Insert" ("QI"). It appears to be a method with which the person being targeted, without their knowledge, is redirected to websites that then plant malware on their computers that can then manipulate them. Some of the employees whose computers were infiltrated had "good access" to important parts of Belgacom's infrastructure, and this seemed to please the British spies, according to the slides.
The latest revelation of British spying tactics on its European allies, is a clear evidence that Great Britain does spy on its allies too. European governments need to admit to the public that the US surveillance program is by no means unique.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
Photo-Credit: The Guardian.--British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ