The German government has acknowledged shortcomings at the country's foreign intelligence agency following reports that it may have helped the United States spy on Europeans.

Der Spiegel reported on its website Thursday that the Federal Intelligence Agency for years monitored telecoms traffic related to European arms companies and French authorities at the behest of the U.S. National Security Agency.

The magazine reports the problem was discovered in 2008 but spy chiefs failed to inform the government for several years.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the agency, which is known by its German acronym BND and answers directly to Chancellor Angela Merkel's office, had been asked to "thoroughly clarify this complex matter."

Seibert said in a statement that the government had no evidence of "massive eavesdropping against German or European citizens."