US National Security Agency

German parliament drops US telecom firm Verizon over links to NSA spying

Move prompted by Verizon's need to let NSA see data on phone calls and e-mails

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 5:54am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 8:18am

Germany's parliament has terminated the services of US telecoms giant Verizon.

The move came a day after the Interior Ministry said government agencies that used Verizon would "migrate" to Deutsche Telekom, an all-German company, by late next year because New York-based Verizon must share its call logs with a US spy agency.

But the parliament cannot wait that long.

Petra Pau, a deputy speaker of the Bundestag, said it would pay its phone and web bills to a German subsidiary of Verizon, one of three providers it uses, until the end of the year, but make no more use of the access in that time.

Germany is still smarting at revelations, based on documents from US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone was monitored for years by the National Security Agency.

Washington later brushed off German demands for a mutual no-spying deal.

Offering new details of why the German government is ending its use of Verizon services, an Interior Ministry spokesman, Tobias Plate, said: "We wanted to get back more technological sovereignty and give this to a German enterprise."

He said Verizon had not provided services to the major Berlin ministries, which traditionally use Deutsche Telekom services. There are also low-level federal offices all over Germany.

Verizon is required under US court orders to let the NSA see metadata on phone calls and e-mails through its network.

Plate said there was no concrete evidence Verizon had let the NSA bug German official traffic, but Germany could not use a service that had a relationship with a foreign intelligence agency.

Washington sent a former White House aide, John Podesta, to a US-German "cyber dialogue" on Friday in Berlin, where German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier slammed such abuses.

Steinmeier said the more important the internet became, the more necessary it was that governments and giant companies played fair. "Data is power. And power must be restrained by rules," he said. "I believe trust can only be recovered if we abide credibly by rules."

Podesta, a former national security adviser, insisted Washington did not spy on "ordinary" people who posed no threat to the United States.