As Netzpolitik points out, while the committee was busy discussing the few things it could discuss, the German parliament was expanding BND’s legal authorities.
German citizens – along with everyone the government spies on – can rest assured nothing has changed. It’s only gotten worse.
The Snowden revelations on US NSA spying in Germany still poison relations between UK (and US) intelligence community and their German counterparts.
Relations between British and German spy chiefs have hit rock bottom because London says its counterparts in Berlin cannot be trusted to keep secrets. (…)
The source said: ‘It has now reached the point where there is virtual radio silence between the two biggest and most important intelligence services of the western world and the BND of Germany.
‘Germany is worried because it needs the umbrella protection of these agencies. It is virtually blind without it.’
This also concerns German requests for information demanded by the German Bundestag’s (parliaments) committee on mass surveillance:
Both the UK and America refused to send any of the requested files to Germany. Included among them was a demand for information about a 2013 operation handled by both countries – and in co-operation with the BND – which was, and remains, top secret but was known to involve a massive surveillance programme on suspected Islamic terrorists across Europe.
Britain fears a ‘big debate’ in the German parliament which would lay open secret sources and intelligence gathering techniques.
To complicate matters even more, the German Bundestag is searching for a »Wikileaks mole« – said to leak information from the said NSA investigative committee.
Berliner Morgenpost » Bundestagspolizei sucht Wikileaks-Maulwurf im Parlament »
The inquiry was established in 2014 in the wake of the Snowden revelations, which showed that not only was the NSA spying on the whole world, but it had also partnered with the intelligence services of particular states to spy on their citizens and those of the surrounding regions. One of these countries is Germany, which has had a close relationship with the US in military and intelligence matters since its occupation by US forces in WWII. The US has been shown to use its bases in Germany and its relationship with German intelligence to spy on German citizens as well as European Union institutions. (…)
Last week, on 21 November 2016, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice upheld the complaint and ruled that the committee was obliged to hear Edward Snowden in person. However, at the next inquiry hearing three days after the ruling, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc and the Social Democrats removed Snowden’s invitation from the agenda of the inquiry and are contesting the Court’s decision.
Wikileaks: German BND-NSA Inquiry Exhibits »
German Bundestag and Bundesrat have approved new rules for mass surveillance, at record speed.
In essence, what was illegal but done anyway now is legal.
This follows the uncovering of BND mass surveillance on a huge scale. Now this control of cross-border and national telecommunications can continue as if nothing has happened.
The world’s largest internet exchange point is suing the German government for tapping its communications systems.
DE-CIX runs a number of critical exchange points – most of them in Germany, but with others in France, Spain and the United States – and has sued the German interior ministry over orders from the German security services to allow them to tap its exchange centers.
The goal of the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Leipzig, is to reach a “judicial clarification” over whether the German government’s actions are legal, the company said (in German), and “in particular, legal certainty for our customers and our company.”
The German Intelligence Service BND illegally collected and stored mass surveillance data and has to delete those data immediately, including XKeyscore. This is one of the results of a classified report of the German Federal Data Protection Commissioner that we are hereby publishing. In her report, she criticizes serious legal violations and a massive restriction of her supervision authority.
German intelligence mandarin Hans-Georg Maassen of the Verfassungsschutz has told the Bundestag’s NSA committee that it is “highly plausible” that whistleblower Edward Snowden is a Russian spy.
Obviously, it is very hard if at all possible to know if anyone is a Russian spy. There are even speculations about Chancellor Merkel (who is of East-German descent). But speculations are just speculations.
And when it comes to Maassen, he has some pretty strong incentives to smear Snowden — as the whistleblower’s revelations have left German intelligence with egg on its face.
One should consider the fact that Edward Snowden did not choose Russia as his refuge. The reason he is stuck there is that US authorities had revoked his passport, stranding him in Moscow when in transit. And because all relevant western countries (including Germany) have refused him sanctuary / asylum.
If the German government were to let him into the country, Snowden could be in Berlin pretty quickly. But somehow, I presume Mr. Maassen wouldn’t be all too happy about that.
For the rest of us, it would be of great value and importance to have the whistleblower out of Russia and cooperating with western democratic oversight bodies, e.g. the Bundestag’s NSA committee.
Last Friday German magazine Focus ran an interview with the country’s two top spies — Gerhard Schindler, of the Bundesnachrichtendienstes (BND) and Hans-Georg Maaßen, of the Bundesamtes für Verfassungsschutz (BfV).
In short, they are annoyed that Edward Snowdens exposure of NSA mass surveillance puts Germany and the UK in an uncomfortable spot. They even implied that Snowden could have been acting under the influence of the Russian government.
“Leaking the secret service files is an attempt to drive a wedge between western Europe and the USA – the biggest since the Second World War,” Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz), told Focus in the double interview.
The translation above from The Local.de. This has gained some attention in the media and Western military circles. So, let’s take a step back and try to look at the wider picture.
Yes, it is a problem that very little is known about mass surveillance carried out by e.g. Russia and China. But you cannot blame Snowden for this. He worked for a contractor to the NSA and leaked what he found to be unacceptable violations of civil rights. Furthermore, the NSA is an intelligence organisation in a democratic country; that should be held responsible under the rule of law. It is not a level playing field. But our western democracies are better than authoritarian and totalitarian states – and our authorities should be held accountable according to a higher standard. Especially when they spy on their own citizens.
Yes, it is a problem that Edward Snowden is stranded in Russia. But that does not make him a Russian spy or mouthpiece. The reason he is in Moscow is: 1) When he arrived there for transit, the US had revoked his passport. 2) No western democracy is willing to grant Snowden asylum. If German authorities are willing to grant him shelter and protection – he can be in Berlin pretty quickly, where a parliamentary inquiry would love to meet with him. (However, I don’t think German intelligence services are all too keen about that prospect.)
And naturally Germany and the UK are being criticized. They deserve to. German intelligence has been spying on companies, businesspeople, and political figures in Germany and allied European nations on behalf of the NSA. And they have lied about it in front of German parliamentarians. In similar ways, the British GHCQ have been acting far beyond its mandate. Both countries are close allies with the US and both countries intelligence authorities have a close cooperation with the American NSA. So, it is not the least strange that German BND has come under scrutiny. But they can blame no one but them selves.
But OK, no one can tell for sure if Snowden is a (knowing or unknowing, willing or unwilling) Russian spy. But that does not alter the fact that his revelations have huge implications for how our democratic societies are run. It is extremely important that this information has come to the public’s knowledge. To defend a free and open society, we must stick to democratic principles, rules, and legal frameworks.
The best, easiest and most decent thing would be to grant Edward Snowden asylum in Germany – and let him testify in front of relevant parliament committees. But I guess that will never happen.
• The Local.de: German spies imply Snowden leaked files for Russia »
• Focus: Doppel-Interview mit Gerhard Schindler und Hans-Georg Maaßen: Kreml versucht den deutschen Bundestag zu infiltrieren – Russen treiben mit Hilfe des Whistleblowers Snowden einen Keil zwischen Westeuropa und den USA »
Once upon a time, there were rumors about a global surveillance network — Echelon. When the European Parliament decided to look into the matter, it turned out it did indeed exist. For years to follow there were rumors about US intelligence organisation NSA and its new capabilities to “collect it all”. And a few years ago, the Snowden documents exposed exactly that.
Then followed a state of resignation.
In 2013/14, it was brought to light that the NSA might have compromised the international clearing system for bank transfers, European run SWIFT. It’s a bit odd, as the US can have as much information about European bank transfers as they want, in accordance with the EU-US TFTP agreement. Newer the less, there were strong indications of something going on. This time the European police agency, Europol, didn’t even bother to look into the matter. In a European Parliament hearing Europol director Bob Wainwright explicitly said so. (The hearing is quite surreal. It’s all on video here. »)
In Germany, politicians softened their tone against the US/NSA when threatened with limited access to US intelligence. It also turned out that under the level of political polemic, the BND had been working very closely with the NSA all the time. And in Sweden, according to the Snowden files, SIGINT organisation FRA has access to NSA superdatabase XKeyscore. Swedish politicians (including the Greens, who are now in government) will not even comment on the legality of this.
The European Court of Justice has invalidated the EU data retention directive, finding it in breach of fundamental human rights. Never the less most EU member states are upholding (and in some cases implementing) data retention, leading national constitutional courts to object. But data retention fits well with US surveillance systems, so it seems to be less important if it is legal or not.
I could go on, but I better get to my point.
Politicians and intelligence bureaucrats are sending some pretty clear signals these days. They do not care about what is legal or not legal. They do not care if being exposed. They do not even comment on issues that ought to be fundamental in a democracy. The message is: This is the way it is. Live with it.
If there was ever need for a broad political movement against mass surveillance, it is now.