The National Security Agency engages in industrial espionage, grabbing intelligence from foreign companies regardless of the information's value to national defense, Edward Snowden told a German TV network.
In text released to the media ahead of a broadcast Sunday, German public television broadcaster ARD quoted the former NSA contractor as citing German engineering firm Siemens as an example.
"There is no question that the US is engaged in economic spying," Snowden told ARD, according to a Deutsche Welle account of the interview. ''If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to U.S. national interests -- even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security -- then they'll take that information nevertheless."
CNET has contacted the NSA for comment and will update this report when we learn more. In a statement earlier this month in response to a New York Times report that the agency had installed surveillance software on nearly 100,000 computers around the world, the agency denied supplying any obtained intelligence to US companies to give them a competitive edge.
"NSA's activities are focused and specifically deployed against -- and only against -- valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements," the NSA said in the statement to CNET. "In addition, we do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of -- or give intelligence we collect to -- US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line."
Germany was particularly critical of the NSA's surveillance activities after it was revealed last year that the agency eavesdropped on the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other world leaders. During reforms to the NSA announced earlier this month, President Obama pledged to end the practice of monitoring the political leaders of US allies.