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Fearing NSA surveillance, German govt ends Verizon contract for Internet services

BERLIN - The German government is ending a contract with Verizon over fears the company could be letting U.S. intelligence agencies eavesdrop on sensitive communications, officials said Thursday.

The New York-based company has for years provided Internet services to a number of government departments, although not to German security agencies, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate.

While Germany had been reconsidering those contracts for some time, they faced additional scrutiny after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of electronic eavesdropping by the U.S. intelligence agency and Britain's GCHQ.

German authorities were particularly irked by reports that the NSA had targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel. Berlin has also proposed building more secure networks in Europe to avoid having to rely on American Internet companies that manage much of the electronic traffic circulating the globe.

"There are indications that Verizon is legally required to provide certain things to the NSA, and that's one of the reasons the co-operation with Verizon won't continue," said Plate.

The current contract with Verizon will expire in 2015, he said.

The announcement follows reports this week that Verizon and British company Colt also provide Internet services to the German Parliament and to other official entities.

Verizon didn't immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Germany's decision.

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