The US National Security Agency (NSA) wanted to spy on Siemens with the help of German intelligence, a German newspaper reported, in what could be a shaming episode for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In its report on Sunday, Bild am Sonntag newspaper said that the NSA had asked BND officials to spy on the European defence company Airbus, Siemens and other European firms.
However, the NSA justified its request by saying that Siemens had a contract with a Russian intelligence agency and that the Munich-based company had supplied communication technology in that context.
According to Bild am Sonntag it remained unclear whether the BND had accepted the NSA request, but the episode will likely add to the heated debate about whether Angela Merkel is able to protect German interests and the implications the revelations may have on the country’s relations to European partners.
In a statement sent to Reuters, a Siemens spokesman rejected the NSA allegation about such a Russian connection.
Surveillance and snooping by state agencies is a touchy subject for the Germans due to past breaches of privacy by the Nazi and by the East German Stasi secret police, therefore such allegations could harm Germany's ruling coalition, which comprises Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats.
The news is part of German’s latest intelligence scandal, which was set off last month by news reports that the NSA had made substantial efforts to spy on German and European companies using German intelligence facilities.
This in turn led to BND drastically reducing its cooperation with the NSA and ceasing the online surveillance it is believed to have been carrying out on behalf of the US intelligence agency. The decision was made after the NSA failed to provide a solid reason for each request for the surveillance of individuals and organisations.