The U.S. National Security Agency tapped phone calls involving top German officials for years, a recent trove of WikiLeaks documents reveals. On Monday, the group alleged that its revelations showed the NSA, which had been spying on German officials since at least 1998, helped the Central Intelligence Agency “outmaneuver” Europe on torture at CIA black sites in Europe.
In 2005, European governments were facing growing criticism at home for their complicity in rumored clandestine “rendition flights” wherein the CIA transported suspects, including Europeans, to “black sites” in Eastern Europe or the Middle East where they could be tortured with impunity. European governments continued to cooperate with the U.S. while denying knowledge of rendition flights and insisting they had received assurance from the U.S. that nothing illegal was occurring at the CIA facilities, the Wikileaks report said.
Following a meeting in the U.S. with then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier allegedly, “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."
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 20, 2015
In actuality, torture was allegedly routine at CIA black sites and Europeans were among those detained and transferred. The Wikileaks report cited Khalid El-Masri, a German car salesman who was handed over to the CIA by Macedonian authorities and transferred to a black site in Afghanistan. While in detention, he was reportedly blindfolded, beaten and forcibly given an enema. After 149 days of being held, El-Masri was dumped on a road in Albania after it was determined he was being held due to mistaken identity.
"Today's publication indicates that the NSA has been used to help the CIA kidnap and torture with impunity. For years the CIA was systematically abducting and torturing people, with the tacit complicity of European governments," said Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
The revelations came as the NSA has received growing criticism over spying on its allies. In February, President Barack Obama acknowledged that revelations in 2013 of NSA spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel continued to sour the U.S.’s image in Germany, Reuters reported.
In May, it was revealed Berlin's foreign intelligence arm may have aided U.S. spying on European companies, regional entities and politicians, the Washington Post reported.