BERLIN (Reuters) - Airbus Group said on Thursday it planned to complain to the German authorities over reports that the country’s foreign intelligence agency had helped the United States to spy on it and other European firms.
“We’ve asked the government for more information,” an Airbus spokesman in Germany said. “We will launch a complaint against an unknown person on suspicion of industrial espionage.”
Earlier, when asked about the reports on a call with reporters following first-quarter results, Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm said he wasn’t surprised that Airbus, as a major aerospace and defence company, could be the target of spying efforts.
The reports by Der Spiegel magazine have caused consternation in Germany, where surveillance is a sensitive topic because of historic abuses by the Nazi security services and the East German Communists.
When allegations emerged in 2013 that the United States had bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, she declared that “spying among friends is not at all acceptable”.
Der Spiegel reported in its online edition that officials of Germany’s BND intelligence service indirectly helped the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on European targets, including German interests, over a period of more than 10 years.
It said BND officials passed Internet IP addresses as well as mobile phone numbers to the NSA.
On Wednesday Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a close Merkel ally, denied that he lied to parliament about German intelligence cooperation with U.S. spy agencies.
German media also reported that BND officials helped U.S. agencies spy on the French president’s office, the foreign ministry in Paris and the European Commission.
Asked about the allegations, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference in Brussels that he had once proposed that the Commission should have its own secret service “because the agents are here”, although he did not know if German spies were active in the Belgian capital.
Juncker, who headed a Luxembourg government that was brought down by a spying and corruption scandal in 2013, said he knew from personal experience that secret services were very difficult to keep under control.
Reporting by Victoria Bryan; additional reporting by Adrian Croft in Brussels; Editing by Mark Trevelyan