Germany's coalition government has agreed to tighten controls over the country's BND spy agency and impose new legal restrictions on its surveillance activities, according to sources familiar with the agreement.
The long-delayed reform package for Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, was agreed during a meeting at the German chancellor's office on Friday, according to several participants in the meeting.
The legal reforms, which must still be finalised by the German parliament, would ban the BND from spying on countries in the European Union and its citizens, as well as EU institutions, except in the case of suspected terrorist activity.
The agreement also requires the head of the BND, the chancellor's office and an independent panel of judges to approve strategic foreign espionage activities based on keyword lists, according to the sources.
The changes would also spell out more clearly when the agency would be permitted to carry out such spying activities.
The BND intelligence service has been in the limelight after a series of scandals that embarrassed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, including revelations that the agency had helped the US National Security Agency spy on European allies, using such lists of keywords.