January 3, 2011

Germany Denies Spy Program Collaboration With US

On Monday, Germany's aerospace center denied that it is working with the U.S. on a $270 million high-tech secret spy program.

According to documents released by Wikileaks, Germany joined a partnership with the U.S. to create a satellite spying program that was presented as a commercial enterprise, but is actually run by the Germany intelligence service and the German Aerospace Center, DLR.

German Aerospace Center spokesman Andreas Schuetz said the project, which would require a high-resolution optical satellite, has been in discussion for the past two years under the name HIROS.

"HIROS is neither a spy satellite, nor a secret project," Schuetz said in a statement. He insisted that the project was to be used only for government purposes, "for example crisis management during natural catastrophes and for scientific uses."

According to the documents, the satellites were going to be put into space by 2013, but it was not clear if the funding for the project had been secured.

The documents from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin are among a strove of 250,000 uncensored diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks has made public.  They were posted online by Aftenposten, which said last month that it had obtained all the files.

One of the documents, which dated February 19, 2009, said that Berlin believes such satellite technology would "provide an instrument of national power, and politically frees Germany from dependence on foreign sources of imagery."

According to the documents, the project had been causing friction with Germany's European Union partners, especially France, which was to be strictly excluded from the project.

The cables cite French efforts to halt the proposal as "fierce and persistent due to its potential competition with French industry."

The French Foreign Ministry refused to comment on reported French hostility to the satellite spy program after it said "we confirm nothing attributed to authorities and French diplomats in documents revealed by the WikiLeaks site."


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