Airbus to sue over US-German spying row

Airbus logo Image copyright AFP

Aviation giant Airbus says it will file a criminal complaint over allegations that German intelligence helped the US carry out industrial espionage.

German media reports suggest the country's spy agency BND collected data on European firms at the behest of the US National Security Agency.

An Airbus statement quoted by AFP news agency said it was "alarmed" by the reports but did not want to speculate.

The company said it had asked for more information from the German government.

"We are aware that large companies in the sector, like ours, are targets of espionage," read the statement.

"However, in this case we are alarmed because there is concrete suspicion."

Leaks from a secret BND document suggest that its monitoring station at Bad Aibling checked whether European companies were breaking trade embargos after a request from the NSA.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is under pressure over the revelations

Embarrassment in Berlin - the BBC's Jenny Hill writes:

There is mounting pressure on the German government to disclose how much it knew about the espionage.

In the firing line is Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who in 2008 was the minister in charge of the chancellery and directly responsible for the BND.

He insists he knew nothing about malpractice within the secret service.

Tabloid newspaper Bild printed a picture of Mr de Maiziere on Wednesday- his nose elongated to Pinocchio proportions.

"Herr de Maiziere!" the accompanying headline screamed, "You lie with impunity!"

Spy scandal turns tables on Merkel government

Airbus was named by the German press as one of the firms that was targeted. It is believed that BND eavesdropped on online, phone and other communications in order to gather information.

It is also alleged that it spied on France's presidential palace and foreign ministry, and the European Commission.

According to the reports, the agency did not target German or US officials in the surveillance, as they are protected by a BND-NSA agreement signed in 2002.

However, it has emerged that the German government knew about NSA spying on European arms businesses as early as 2008. The government found "shortcomings" in the BND's operations, German TV reports.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has denied claims of a cover-up.

Mr de Maiziere said he had no knowledge of malpractice at German intelligence agencies, but called for the internal BND report to be presented to a parliamentary committee.

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