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US government allegedly spied on journalists in Germany

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Der Spiegel has filed a criminal complaint

Evidence that the US government has spied on German officials is sadly commonplace, but now it appears that the Obama administration's efforts went beyond government officials. Der Spiegel says it has filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Prosecutors office wherein it claims its journalists were the victims of a spying campaign, based on documents it has obtained.

At the same time, CNN is also reporting that it has obtained evidence that the US government spied on Der Spiegel. Jake Tapper tells the story of a US official who could have been representing either the CIA or NSA going to the German government's intelligence coordinator, Günter Heiss, and demanding he do something about a deputy (Hans-Josef Vorbeck) who was supposedly leaking information to the press. In response, Heiss reportedly traveled to Washington to discuss the alleged leaks and his government opened a file about "U.S. protocols of intercepted communications between Vorbeck and journalists." The incidents took place back in 2011, well before the Snowden leaks revealed the extent of the US government's spying to the world. Vorbeck was apparently reassigned, though at The Intercept reports the alleged reasoning for the reassignment is only now coming to light.

A German journalist who spoke to CNN about the story was understandably outraged, saying "The freedom of the press is constitutional not only in the U.S., but also in Germany, but a press which must fear the surveillance of its research is no longer a free press." In response to the story, a spokesman for the US National Security Council didn't deny the facts that CNN presented, but added that "United States does not collect intelligence for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent."

The Associated Press reports that Der Spiegel's lawsuit is directed against "unknown persons" and aims to uncover more information about precisely who was spying on its journalists.