Five Eyes Treasure Map surveys German telco networks: report

Documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have revealed that a global internet mapping program dubbed Treasure Map has been spying on German telcos' networks, despite US government assurances that the program was not for surveillance purposes, according to a report by Der Spiegel.

A program by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters aimed at mapping the entire internet has seen the agencies break into the networks of Germany's Deutsche Telekom and Netcologne, according to a report by Der Spiegel.

The revelation comes almost a year after the existence of Treasure Map was first made public, with the US government claiming at the time that the program was not for surveillance purposes, but only for mapping foreign and US Defence Department networks, "limited by the amount of data available to the agency", according to a report by The New York Times.

That report, published late last year, said a secret NSA PowerPoint presentation, which was released along with other documents by Snowden, revealed that the Treasure Map program was designed to collect Wi-Fi network and geolocation data from around the world, along with between 30 million and 50 million unique internet provider addresses.

The presentation boasted that the program could map "any device, anywhere, all the time", according to the report.

Der Spiegel said that red markings on the Treasure Map PowerPoint presentation revealed to agents which carriers and internal company networks Five Eyes agencies — those in the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, and New Zealand — claim to have already accessed.

The German news outlet now suggests that the maps indicate that the program gained access to at least two German telecommunications networks, one operated by the formerly state-owned Deutsche Telekom, the other by German regional operator Netcologne.

Additionally, Der Spiegel said it had contacted 11 non-German providers also marked in the documents for comment.

Of the four that responded, Der Spiegel revealed that a spokesperson for Telstra, Australia's largest telco, said that the company "would be extremely concerned if a foreign government were to seek unauthorised access to our global networks and infrastructure".

Despite Der Spiegel's assertion that the documents show that the program gained access to Deutsche Telekom's networks, a spokesperson for the company told Reuters on September 14 that it had found no hint of "manipulations".

"We are looking into every indication of possible manipulations, but have not yet found any hint of that in our investigations so far," a Telekom spokesperson said in a statement.

The Der Spiegel report comes as new court documents show that the NSA was unable to find evidence that Snowden ever raised concerns internally about its sweeping surveillance programs, after an exhaustive search that included deleted emails.

NSA associate director for policy and records David Sherman said that the agency had launched a "comprehensive" investigation, after media reports were published about classified NSA spy programs based on information leaked by Snowden.

As part of last year's probe, the NSA collected and searched Snowden's "sent, received, and deleted email", including those "obtained by restoring backup tapes", Sherman said in a sworn declaration filed on Friday.

"The search did not identify any email written by Mr Snowden in which he contacted agency officials to raise concerns about NSA programs."

Searches for the emails included the records from the agency's Office of General Counsel, Office of the Inspector General, and Office of the Director of Compliance.

The findings contradict Snowden's claim in an interview with NBC News in May that he did raise concerns through "internal channels" within the NSA, and was told to "stop asking questions" before ultimately deciding to leak the secret files.

Sherman, who has worked with the NSA since 1985, has the authority to classify information as "top secret".

The NSA made its declaration in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by VICE News against the NSA earlier this year.

The only relevant communication uncovered was a previously released email between Snowden and the Office of General Counsel, inquiring about material in a training course he had completed.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at the time that the exchange "poses a question about the relative authority of laws and executive orders — it does not register concerns about NSA's intelligence activities".

Snowden has suggested that there was more communication than that single email, telling The Washington Post at the time that the "strangely tailored and incomplete" release "only shows the NSA feels it has something to hide".