BERLIN – European aviation company Airbus said Friday it is taking legal action following reports that it was targeted by German and U.S. intelligence agencies.
The company, which makes civilian and military aircraft and is a fierce rival of U.S. manufacturer Boeing, said it will file a criminal complaint with prosecutors in Germany against “persons unknown.” That’s a common procedure in Germany which requires authorities to investigate.
“We are aware that as a major player in this industry we are a target for intelligence activities,” the company said in a statement. “In this particular case there appears to be a reasonable suspicion of alleged industrial espionage. We are alarmed by this and have therefore asked the German government for information and we are in dialogue with them.”
Airbus stressed that it was made aware of the allegations by press reports and didn’t have any information of its own on the matter.
The German government has pledged to co-operate with lawmakers investigating claims that the country’s foreign intelligence agency overstepped boundaries by helping the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdrop on European officials and companies.
The claims were reported in several German media over the past two weeks, including news weekly Der Spiegel, Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the mass-circulation newspaper Bild.
Der Spiegel reported Friday on its website that Germany’s spy agency, known by its acronym BND, was asked to monitor the Saudi Arabian phone number of an Airbus employee tasked with applying for government export licenses.
Germany has played a key role in the surveillance of telecoms traffic in the Middle East in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. But recent German media reports suggest that the ‘selectors’ — keywords and numbers that the NSA provided so the BND could filter through vast amounts of phone and email chatter — included email addresses of senior French diplomats, among others.
The allegations have proved uncomfortable for the German government, which two years ago reacted angrily to reports that the NSA spied on senior German officials.