What Americans Think about Nuclear Energy
Germany's Going Galt

Germans Are Also Spying on Germans

The revelations of NSA spying activities have, predictably, generated plenty of headlines in Germany. The initial undertone of much of this coverage was predictable: everyone can be a victim of the super-powerful secret American surveillance state; Americans, as usual, are blindly overreacting and sacrificing their so-called liberties for the illusion of security.

However, some reporters and commentators are beginning to ask a question which would seem a lot more relevant for Germans: are German spy agencies doing similar things? The answer, depending on who you ask, is either 'probably', or 'we have no idea, since all these matters are kept secret in Germany and there have been no whistleblowers'. 

That's one point made by Niko Härting (g) at the CR-online blog in a post entitled 'Spy Agencies: Justified Criticism in the USA, Blind Trust in Germany' (my translation):

The manner in which [German] spy agencies use the considerable powers granted them under current law is unknown. Therefore, it's impossible to say if there are programs in Germany which might be comparable to 'Prism'. Spy agencies operate in hiding, and [parliamentary] oversight is performed by a committee whose meetings are strictly confidential. Whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning have not come forward in Germany in recent years.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the main spy agency is planning a €100 million program to train and hire 100 new spies for Internet surveillance.

Two questions: (1) Where are the German whistleblowers? and (2) If one actually came forward, would he or she be celebrated as a hero by Germans, or denounced as a 'nest-fouler' who is endangering valuable and necessary security measures?


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Very certain about "celebrated" in question 2.
Well, you know, in a somewhat cynical way of "celebration".
I don't in general believe that my fellow-countrypeople take consistent stances; but here there is a lot of indicators for that:
German and European plans, and even measures in effect, and even laws that not only allow, but enforce such measures (!), are very unpopular. See, for instance, Vorratsdatenspeicherung.

However, I do see that people are against spying, but they are not even ready to take minimal precautions themselves.
Security and privacy is underrated. This is somewhat understandable: Unless you write against the government in a authoritarian country or so, you will hardly ever see the negative effects clearly and unambiguously linked to spying.
This is a big problem: Governments ever more invasive into citizens' and foreigners' privacy, but looking as friendly as ever.

My impression is that the Germans' attitude towards internet spying is similar to that to high-level corruption:
They find it disgraceful, the bad people on top do it, but they don't really care so much as they don't feel personally concerned.

Now it's a good thing that most people can afford not to feel like victims of corruption, and it says something about how much corruption is limited. However, as for internet spying, it's all an illusion. You ARE concerned.


Angela Merkel in 2008, commenting her view on internet surveillance: "Wir werden nicht zulassen, dass technisch manches möglich ist, aber der Staat es nicht nutzt."

Hans-Peter Friedrich's (interior minister) statements about PRISM and Tempora can be outlined as 'Wet dreams come true.'


Theses are exactly the two questions I keep raising for quite a while (since the Assange story):
where are German whistleblowers and (more grave) to whom are they supposed to turn to if there ever were any? To the "Spiegel" etwa?


we belive our spy agencies are too stupid to do proper surveillance, hence the NSU desaster, or 0zapftis, the tool german police ordered.
also they seem having trouble finding qualified techs.

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