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Under-fire Germany spy chief tells lawmakers his agency made mistakes in cooperation with NSA

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BERLIN — Germany's foreign spy chief said Thursday that his agency made mistakes in its dealings with U.S. counterparts, but warned that probes intended to shed light on possible wrongdoing could threaten intelligence cooperation with allies.

Gerhard Schindler told German lawmakers that the foreign intelligence agency BND, which he heads, failed for years to properly check lists of targets it receive from the U.S. National Security Agency. German media reported that the lists contained search terms targeting European companies and government officials.

The reports have proved uncomfortable for the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted after reports about NSA eavesdropping in Germany that "friends don't spy on friends."

Schindler said that while some BND employees became aware of the questionable targets in 2005, he was only informed of the problem this March — three years after taking office.

He called the oversight "surprising," but said Germany's heavy reliance on U.S. intelligence might have prompted some BND employees to keep quiet about the problems in the NSA lists.

Schindler pledged to thoroughly investigate the problems at his agency, but warned that some European partners had begun to question future cooperation with Germany on intelligence matters for fear of having their practices exposed.

Opposition lawmakers on the parliamentary panel probing BND and NSA activities in Germany have called on the government to publish the NSA lists. Members of the two ruling parties decided Thursday to postpone a decision on whether to give the government a deadline to disclose the lists.

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