German Government: There Are Two PRISMs

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

There’s the PRISM of the NSA and the PRISM partly run by NATO, according to the German government

The German government has rebuffed allegations it had access to the US PRISM programme, claiming there was another initiative designed to scoop up communications data of the same name.

German newspaper Bild revealed a document thought to have been sent by NATO to military commanders in Afghanistan back in 2011, detailing a programme called PRISM that monitored emails and phone calls.

Access to that, PRISM was regulated by the US Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) but the Germans knew of the project, according to Bild, which suggested it was the same PRISM run by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US.

Germany © Nicolas Raymond Shutterstock 2012Germany: We didn’t touch PRISM

The government fought off claims it had lied about its limited knowledge of the US National Security Agency’s PRISM project, saying the PRISM initiative in Afghanistan was different and was only focused on operations in that country.

German officials also said they knew little of the NATO PRISM project, other than it was run by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and NATO.

The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s equivalent of the US NSA, also said the two PRISMs were different.

The revelations come at a bad time for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has already had to deal with calls from rival politicians to confess to access to the NSA PRISM database of information from major Internet companies like Facebook and Google.

Merkel, who is hoping to secure another term in office with national elections just around the corner, recently gave her backing to tougher, unified data protection laws across Europe. The European Commission is currently pushing the EU Council to push on with enacting the reforms.

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