- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2015

Secret-spilling organization WikiLeaks has published new evidence of what the group says shows the extent of the National Security Agency’s longstanding surveillance of top German officials.

The latest release from the anti-secrecy group, published Monday on its website, includes a list of 20 targets, all pertaining to German politicians, who had been supposedly singled out by the NSA for the purpose of gathering intelligence on behalf of the U.S. government.

Among the targets of the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, WikiLeaks said, were the cellphone of then-Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and phone numbers registered to other top officials.

“The list indicates that NSA spying on the Foreign Ministry extends back to the pre-9/11 era, including numbers for offices in Bonn and targeting Joschka Fischer, Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2005,” WikiLeaks said.

“Central to today’s publication,” the organization added, “is a Top Secret NSA intercept of the communications of Foreign Minister Steinmeier.” Indeed, WikiLeaks has published alongside the target list a classified communique that describes the apparent eavesdropping of the politician’s phone following a December 2005 meeting with Condoleezza Rice, then the U.S. secretary of state.

“Steinmeier described the mood during his talks with U.S. officials as very good, but feared that the most difficult part was still ahead,” the intercept reads in part. “He seemed relieved that he had not received any definitive response from the U.S. Secretary of State regarding press reports of CIA flights through Germany to secret prisons in eastern Europe allegedly used for interrogating terrorism suspects.”

A 2007 report commissioned by the European Union concluded that the the CIA had operated 1,245 flights in 14 nations in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that often involved suspects being brought to jurisdictions where they could be subjected to torture.

Julian Assange, the founder and editor of WikiLeaks, said, “Today’s publication indicates that the NSA has been used to help the CIA kidnap and torture with impunity.”

“In 2005 German Foreign Minister Steinmeier was thrilled that his tactic of asking Condoleezza Rice no hard questions about CIA renditions had worked. The U.S. said nothing that would require him to do anything. And how do we know about it? Because the National Security Agency was gloating to the U.S. senior executive about intercepting this cowardly display,” Mr. Assange said in a statement. “Nobody comes out of this looking good.”

The NSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Assange, 44, has been confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 while awaiting safe passage to South America in lieu of facing questioning in Sweden for allegations concerning sex crimes.

He’s said previously that he fears that giving himself up to Swedish authorities would lend to being extradited to the U.S., where he could be tried in relation to the unauthorized disclosure by WikiLeaks of classified State Department and Pentagon documents.

Speaking to Germany’s Der Spiegel this week, Mr. Assange said WikiLeaks is “drowning in material” at the moment, adding, “Economically, the challenge for WikiLeaks is whether we can scale up our income in proportion to the amount of material we have to process.”

In 2013, revelations attributed to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, detailed the U.S. intelligence community’s efforts to eavesdrop on Angela Merkel, the current chancellor of Germany.

Shortly after, Ms. Merkel’s spokesman said she told U.S. President Obama that “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices.”

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