Germany's two main intelligence services used a special surveillance programme of the United States to collect vast amounts of communications data, even as the government continued to deny prior knowledge of such operations, a report claimed on Sunday.
Top secret National Security Agency documents leaked by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that Germany's external intelligence service BND and its domestic counterpart, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, were equipped with the programme code-named "XKeyScore," the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel said.
It was described as "a comprehensive programme capable of monitoring and collecting the metadata, information about the origin and destinations of connections and to find out what terms a particular person has used in a search engine" in an internal NSA presentation.
The purpose of the programme was to strengthen BND's ability to support the NSA in the fight against terrorism.
It also had the responsibility of training the domestic agency on how to use the programme, Der Spiegel said.
The system is also capable of storing a "full take" of all unfiltered data for several days, including at least a part of the content of the communications, the magazine added.
Out of around half-a-billion internet and telephone connections from Germany monitored every month by the NSA, a major part is collected with the help of the "XkeyScore" programme.
Around 180 million data was collected in December 2012, the news weekly said.
The documents also showed that cooperation between the German intelligence agencies and the NSA has intensified recently and the BND has expressed its desire to work more closely.
The NSA said in January that the BND "has been working to influence the German government to relax interpretation of the privacy laws to provide greater opportunities for intelligence gathering," Der Spiegel said.
Since the first documents leaked by Snowden revealing details of the NSA's sweeping surveillance programmes were published in the media at the beginning of June, the German government has claimed that it had no prior knowledge.
Meanwhile, former NSA director Michael Hayden said that the United States had agreed with its European partners shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 to create a kind of information pool to facilitate speedy exchange of information among their intelligence agencies, he said in a TV interview.