New leaks could intensify the debate over how complicit European spy agencies have been in global NSA surveillance. A survey obtained by The Guardian sheds light on the technical capabilities of France, Spain, Germany, the UK, and other countries, suggesting that Britain's GCHQ acts as a hub for Europe and the United States. In the 2008 survey, the UK expresses particular admiration for Germany, which has recently reacted to news of NSA surveillance of chancellor Angela Merkel's phone with outrage. Germany's intelligence service had "huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the internet," it says, apparently referencing its ability to tap fiber optic cables.
The survey also describes favorable relationships with other countries, though the GCHQ was dissatisfied with Italy's "fractured" intelligence infrastructure. Granted, it's no particular surprise that intelligence agencies of allied countries are working together or sharing some amount of information, though the NSA's insistence that it looks only for sensitive information seems at odds with the purported 60 to 70 million pieces of data obtained from France and Spain.
Perhaps also unsurprisingly, the documents show that the GCHQ helped lobby for looser privacy laws abroad. The GCHQ notes that it was helping Germany's intelligence agencies in "making the case for reform or reinterpretation of the very restrictive interception legislation in Germany," and it talked about providing similar assistance in Sweden and the Netherlands. "The Dutch have some legislative issues that they need to work through before their legal environment would allow them to operate in the way that GCHQ does," it says. "We are providing legal advice on how we have tackled some of these issues to Dutch lawyers."