Germany’s foreign intelligence agency has been spying on Turkey for nearly four decades, Focus magazine said on Aug. 23 in a report which could raise tensions further between the NATO allies.
The details about the duration of possible surveillance and on the decision-making surrounding it go further than first reports earlier this week.
Turkey summoned Germany’s ambassador in Ankara on Aug. 18 after media reports that Berlin had identified Ankara as a top target of surveillance in a government document from 2009 and had been spying on Turkey for years.
Focus magazine said the BND intelligence agency had been spying on Turkey since 1976 and that German government under the then Social Democrat chancellor Helmut Schmidt had expressly approved the step.
The magazine also cited government sources as saying the BND’s current mandate to monitor Turkish political and state institutions had been agreed by a government working group. That included representatives of the chancellor’s office, the defense, foreign and economy ministries.
A spokesman for the German government declined to comment on the report.
The report is a further embarrassment for Angela Merkel’s government which faces accusations of hypocrisy because of its outrage over allegations of widespread surveillance by the United States on Germans, including the tapping of the chancellor’s phone.
However, conservative lawmaker Hans-Peter Uhl told Focus there were “good reasons” for the BND to bug Turkey. He cited human trafficking, drugs and terrorism as issues of concern and his comments chime with the views of many German politicians.
“We need to know what is coming to us from EU-applicant Turkey,” Focus quoted him as saying.
Germany is Turkey’s largest trading partner in the European Union and home to at least 3 million Turks. But relations are not always smooth. Merkel’s conservatives are skeptical about Turkish EU membership.
In response to media reports about U.S. spying in Germany, Merkel has said spying among friends is “not at all acceptable”.
In a public spat which chilled relations between Berlin and Washington, Germany told the top U.S. spy in Germany to leave earlier this year after a double agent at the BND was unearthed.
Der Spiegel magazine reported that the BND has also targeted Albania, another member of NATO, for surveillance.