This article fails to connect its own dots. Der Spiegel has already reported on US dominance of the German intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). In light of that we must ask, why is the BND spying on foreign journalists?
Two reasons immediately come to mind.
1. Germany's own assertions of autonomy. In this post 9/11 world of unfathomable subterfuge the German Establishment is seeking to flex its own muscle and in trying to dominate the EU, Berlin's interests continue to expand. It is clearly seeking to become more involved in international affairs. To do this it must be active in pursuing intelligence.
2. At the same time Berlin has thrown in with Washington. This both strengthens and weakens the EU. The EU as originally intended is weakened being increasingly subjugated to the powerful states such as Germany and France.
It strengthens the EU when it is viewed through the lens of Berlin's leadership. It is a German-dominated EU that is strengthened by these actions and the collaboration of US and German intelligence.
We know from previous reports that one of the means of evading charges of domestic spying is to rely on proxies (allies) to do it for you. The British spy for the Americans and vice versa. They then share their data and yet the sharing itself is classified. So is the collecting but if it is appears in the press, the agencies are off the hook. It's legal to collect data on foreign subjects. They have plausible deniability. The BND spying on European journalists is clearly a case of the same. And yet all these nations also know that the US does not treat them as equals. They're expected to share everything they get but the US selectively shares, even with those operating within the Five Eyes (Anglo and English speaking) framework. Germany is not part of this network and yet has long served as a US proxy. The Trump administration and the rise of the European Right are beginning to put this relationship at risk.
And yet there are indications in the fact that the US intelligence agencies are withholding information from Trump that they are likely moving to preserve these relationships (such as with Berlin) during his tenure. They hope to weather the storm of his administration. They're not going to put all these associations and networks at risk, which took decades to build, because of a populist and buffoonish politician.
For those within the German and larger European Establishment the Trump administration carries both a risk and an opportunity. For the first time since the end of World War II they have a chance to break free and gain some autonomy. Be sure Washington will utilise journalists, leaks and even scandals if necessary to suppress this impulse and keep their satraps in line. Terrorism is also a tried and true method of steering public energy into the political agendas of candidates and parties more amenable to the US agenda. This is at the heart of how the Empire functions vis-à-vis its allies.
While it is to be appreciated that Der Spiegel is publishing stories like this, if you've been following these issues, you would already assume this to be the case. In fact previous reporting has already suggested it.