November 21, 2013 By Jörg Diehl - spiegel.de
The center of Berlin has become a playground for spies. Phone calls in the dense German government district can be monitored with basic equipment and even by allies. German counter-espionage agents are alarmed.
The heart of the German capital is about as big as two football pitches. Pariser Platz square, framed by the Brandenburg Gate and the Unter den Linden boulevard is the must-see destination for any visitor to Berlin. The Reichstag parliament building and the Chancellery are just a few minutes' walk from here, and the embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, France and Russia are very close. This is where the power is concentrated -- and where mutual espionage is at its most intense.
It's isn't just the embassies of the US and UK whose roofs are equipped with conspicuous structures which experts say could conceal equipment for the illegal monitoring of phone calls. The Russian Embassy also has a rooftop building that German security authorities have had an eye on for a long time. Security officials refer to it as the "Russian woodshed" and it too is suspected of housing surveillance equipment.
"If someone makes an unencrypted telephone call in the Berlin government district, it's probably not just one foreign intelligence service that will be listening," said one high-ranking official. Research by SPIEGEL recently revealed that the NSA had been spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone for a long time. The Americans aren't the only ones collecting information in this way -- phone surveillance in central Berlin is too easy for that.