The German Parliament last week approved a controversial espionage law that theoretically will tighten oversight of the BND intelligence agency, but that according to privacy advocates will give more power to the authorities.
The experts focused their critic on a controversial clause of the law that allows the BND to eavesdrop communications of foreign organizations and individuals on German soil and abroad that is in transit through a major internet exchange point in Frankfurt.
The Frankfurt-based operator DE-CIX in September filed a suit at a court in Leipzig against the government due to the new law that is considered illegal.
The German Government sustains that the measured approved by the surveillance law will allow it to investigate online crime and terrorism.
“How do we want to find terror suspects? How do we want to detect them if not through those means?” said Clemens Binninger a lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party.
In the past, the BND was not authorized from spying its population, but the new controversial surveillance law will allow it under specific circumstances.
BND was only allowed to monitor up to 20 percent of traffic at one exchange point, but the new law gives full power and no limitation to the agency while spying on the Internet traffic.
“The law stipulates that through this activity it cannot be ruled out that the communications of German citizens and entities could also be accidentally intercepted, a major shift for the BND, which had been forbidden from spying on Germans.” reads a blog post published by the Reuters.
The Greens are expressing their disappointment to the law and have threatened to petition Germany’s highest court and the European Court of Justice to repeal the surveillance law.
This law is considered a serious threat to the privacy of the Germans, politicians and privacy defenders fear a dragnet surveillance.
Lawmaker Martina Renner of the hard-left Left party speculates the monitoring equipment used by the BND is not able to discern messages sent by foreigners from those of the Germans.
Surveillance activities conducted by the BND raised an intense debate on the internal political front. According to revelations published by the Der Spiegel, the agency supported the NSA in its global surveillance activities.
The BND helped NSA in monitoring European politicians, the Intelligence Agency targeted private companies and entities worldwide in order to establish a dominance in the cyberspace. Among the victims, there was also the German Government and its politicians, including the chancellor Angela Merkel. The German Government was shocked at the time and expressly manifest his dissent to President Obama.
The BND supported espionage operations against various targets, including the European companies EADS (the manufacturer of Airbus planes) and Eurocopter, and European politicians, including German ones.
In August, the German weekly Die Zeit disclosed documents that reveal how the German Intelligence did a deal with the NSA to get the access to the surveillance platform XKeyscore.
Internal documents show that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), received the software program XKeyscore from the NSA in return of data from Germany.
Back in 2o11, the NSA demonstrated the capabilities of the XKeyscore platform of the BfV agency. After two years of negotiation, the BfV signed an agreement to receive the NSA spyware software and install it for analyzing metadata collected on German citizens. In return, the German Agency promised to share metadata collected.
The NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’, XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data analyzing the content of emails, social media, and browsing history.
In 2013, documents leaked by Edward Snowden explained that a tool named DNI Presenter allows the NSA to read the content of stored emails and it also enables the intelligence analysts to track the user’s activities on Facebook through a system dubbed XKeyscore.
According to Die Zeit, the document “Terms of Reference” stated: “The BfV will: To the maximum extent possible share all data relevant to NSA’s mission”.
The BfV didn’t provide the details of the agreement to Germany’s data protection commissioner, nor it informed the Parliamentary Control Panel.
In January, the BND has resumed its internet surveillance with the support of the NSA, the activities were suspended following the revelation on the mutual espionage activities. In July 2015 Wikileaks revealed an extended economic espionage activity conducted by the NSA in Germany, the spies were particularly interested in the Greek debt crisis.
Back to the new German surveillance law, it bans the Intelligence from spying on EU countries and its citizens, as well as EU institutions, except in the case of investigation of terrorist activity.
“It also requires the BND to submit requests for cooperation with other spy agencies with a parliamentary committee and bans the agency from carrying out industrial espionage.” states the Reuters.
“It requires the head of the BND, the chancellor’s office and an independent panel of judges to approve strategic foreign espionage activities.”
(Security Affairs – German surveillance law, espionage)