Starting at the end of January, several press items reported on an academic article published in the December edition of the quarterly magazine Endeavour. Based on documents from the Dachau concentration camp, Dr Klaus Reinhardt, a biologist at the University of Tübingen uncovered that Nazi scientists wanted to use mosquitos as insect vector for the delivery of malaria plasmodium protozoans. According to the article abstract:
In January 1942, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and police in Nazi Germany, ordered the creation of an entomological institute to study the physiology and control of insects that inflict harm to humans. Founded in the grounds of the concentration camp at Dachau, it has been the focus of previous research, notably into the question of whether it was involved in biological warfare research. This article examines research protocols by the appointed leader Eduard May, presented here for the first time, which confirm the existence of an offensive biological warfare research programme in Nazi Germany.
In 1999, while at SIPRI, I oversaw the publication of a volume in the Chemical & Biological Warfare Studies series edited by Erhard Geissler and John Ellis van Courtland Moon on Biological and Toxin Weapons: Research, Development and Use from the Middle Ages to 1945. Geissler, now a retired professor in molecular biology and genetics, wrote the chapter on Germany’s biological warfare programmes before and during World War 2. He basically debunked the myth that the SS was conducting a secret offensive biological warfare programme against Hitler’s explicit orders not to investigate such weapons.
Reinhardt claims to have recently uncovered fresh documents from Dachau and suggests that the earlier assessments of Germany’s offensive BW activities are wrong. Being familiar with Geissler’s investigations — particularly with the 900-page mastodont, emphatically entitled Biologische Waffen – nicht in Hitlers Arsenalen — and other historical research on the origins of offensive biological warfare programmes on the eve of and during World War 2, I was mildly sceptical of the new claims. While the possibility of finding new archival material always exists, contradicting a central conclusion of extensive historical research is quite a different matter. An article in National Geographic summarised Reinhardt’s findings, but also noted that they are controversial among researchers. His conclusions were therefore not as absolute as some press items were suggesting, I therefore assumed.
Yesterday, however, Erhard Geissler posted a blog commentary, calling the findings ‘disinformation’ :
Despite the thrilling headline Reinhardt in his article does not provide any new material regarding the dual-use activities performed in the Entomological Institute of the Waffen-SS beyond that what was already published. The low-scale experiments performed by Eduard May in September 1944 on the survival of food-deprived mosquitoes, can hardly assessed as confirmation of “the existence of an offensive biological warfare research programme in Nazi Germany”. Besides that, the main body of Reinhardts paper including its concluding paragraph does not pick up the alleged BW preparations but deals with the “enigmatic figure” of its director, Eduard May.
Up to today there is no evidence of offensive biological warfare research in Germany after the unsuccessful attempts of German biosabotage in WWI. It is a pitty that the misleading heading of Reinhardt‘s article similar to other disinformation campaigns are favored by some media’s apparent craving for a breaking story that often supersedes thorough investigation.
This is pretty categorical debunking of research findings. To be continued?
Jean Pascal Zanders (Belgium) has worked on questions of chemical and biological weapon (CBW) armament and disarmament since 1986. He was CBW Project Leader at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Director of the BioWeapons Prevention Project and Senior Research Fellow responsible for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation questions at the European Union Institute for Security Studies.
Military historian Max Hastings and education minister Michael Gove say we should should blame the Germans for World War I and celebrate the victory for ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. Archaeologist Neil Faulkner disagrees.
Max Hastings has his new book on 1914 out already (Catastrophe: Europe goes to war, 1914). In it he pulls no punches. Even the dustcover proclaims the forthright revisionist message.
‘He [the author] finds the evidence overwhelming that Austria and Germany must accept the principal blame for the outbreak. While what followed was a vast tragedy, he argues passionately against the ‘poets ‘view’ that the war was not worth winning. It was vital to the freedom of Europe, he says, that the Kaiser’s Germany should be defeated.’
UK secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, writing in the Daily Mail, takes the same view:
The First World War may have been a uniquely horrific war, but it was also plainly a just war… The ruthless social Darwinism of the German elites, the pitiless approach they took to occupation, their aggressively expansionist war aims and their scorn for the international order all made resistance more than justified.
So there you have it. Just as the rulers of Britain and France argued at the time, it was all Germany’s fault. Never mind that Britain had the largest empire in the world, ruling over one-fifth of the world’s land mass and one-quarter of its people. Never mind that Britain’s navy was almost the twice the size of Germany’s. Never mind that Britain had formed a military alliance with Russia and France, leaving Germany’s rulers feeling corralled and threatened in an arms race they were losing.
This is not to exonerate the Kaiser. It is simply to say that he was no worse than the rulers of Britain and France. All were imperialists and warmongers. All were prepared to plunge the world into an industrialised war for the power and profit of a few. The vast majority of humanity – the vast majority of the people these rulers were supposed to represent – had no interest in the war. The conscripted workers and peasants of Europe were the victims of a millionaires’ war.
‘No poet,’ says Hastings, ‘ever identified a route by which the British, French, and Belgian people could have escaped the conflict, save by accepting the Kaiser’s domination of Europe.’ This claim appears in a Daily Mail article in June this year headlined Sucking up to the Germans is no way to remember our Great War heroes, Mr Cameron‘.
But this is nonsense. There was a Europe-wide movement against war. Just days before Germany’s declaration of war there were 100,000 anti-war demonstrators on the streets of Berlin. Across Germany, during four days of mass protest in the final days of peace, there had been no fewer than 288 anti-war demonstrations involving up to three-quarters of a million people.
Across Europe that last summer of peace, as millions of people took action against their own rulers, there was a widespread mood of internationalism and solidarity. But when the leaders of all the mainstream parties lined up in support of the war effort, they reinforced a tide of jingoism that the killed the anti-war movement and swept the people of Europe into internecine carnage.
But that mood would resurface, and when it did, beginning in 1917, it would be charged with bitterness at the slaughter and impoverishment, becoming a giant wave of revolution crashing across the continent, ending the war, toppling tyrants, and shaking the foundations of the entire social order.
‘Far from dying in vain,’ continues Hastings, ‘those who perished … between 1914 and 1918 made as important a contribution to our privileged, peaceful lives today as did their sons in World War II.’
And Michael Gove agrees:
‘For all our mistakes as a nation, Britain’s role in the world has also been marked by nobility and courage. Indeed, the more we reflect on every aspect of the war, the more cause there is for us to appreciate what we owe to our forebears and their traditions.’
These are extraordinary claims. The British and the French used their victory in 1918 to re-divide the world, helping themselves to German colonies, hacking off chunks of German territory in Europe, and imposing crippling reparations payments on the German people.
Meantime, to control their enlarged empires in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, they gunned down protestors demanding democracy and independence. This imperialist carve-up – ‘a peace to end all peace’ – created the preconditions for the Second World War two decades later.
The cost of the First World War was 15 million dead. The cost of the sequel was 60 million dead. More human beings have been killed by war in the last century than in the whole of the rest of human history put together.
The immense potential of industrial society to provide the goods and service we all need has, again and again, been turned into its opposite: means of destruction and waste on an unprecedented scale.
This is not something to be rationalised into a choice between ‘good’ empires and ‘bad’ empires; a choice between ‘democratic’ Britain and France as against ‘autocratic’ and ‘expansionist’ Germany. This is to trivialise historical events, reducing them to little more than a banal discussion about who sent the final ultimatum, who mobilised first, who fired the first shot.
Max Hastings and Michael Gove want us to side with one empire against another. He wants us to wave a Union Jack, celebrate a British victory, and promote the lie that the 15 million dead of the First World War were ‘a necessary sacrifice’.
What is required is an analysis that roots tragedies like the First World War, and all the other imperialist conflicts of the last century, in the madness of a world divided into competing corporations and warring nation-states.
No Glory – the real History of the First World War
Neil Faulkner’s new pamphlet published by No Glory in War
More details and how to buy…
Neil Faulkner is a First World War archaeologist and editor of Military History Monthly. He is one of the founders of the No Glory in War campaign.
In the wake of President Obama’s promise to stop spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the US intelligence has switched its attention to her top government officials, a German newspaper reported.
Washington’s relations with Germany were strained last year after revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting mass surveillance in Germany and even tapped the mobile phone of Chancellor Merkel.
Facing the German outrage, President Barack Obama pledged that the US would stop spying on the leader of the European country, which is among the closest and most powerful allies of America.
After the promise was made, the NSA has stepped up surveillance of senior German officials, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag (BamS) reported on Sunday.
“We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we are no longer able to monitor the chancellor’s communication directly,” it quoted a top NSA employee in Germany as saying.
BamS said the NSA had 297 employees stationed in Germany and was surveying 320 key individuals, most of them German decision-makers involved in politics and business.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is of particular interest to the US, the report said, because he is a close aide of Merkel, who seeks his advice on many issues and was rumored to be promoting his candidacy for the post of NATO secretary-general.
A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry told the newspaper it would not comment on the “allegations of unnamed individuals.”
Privacy issues are a very sensitive area in Germany, which holds the memory of invasive state surveillance practices by the Nazi government and later by the Communist government in the former East Germany.
Part of the outrage in Germany was caused by the allegation that US intelligence is using its surveillance capabilities not only to provide national security, but also to gain business advantage for American companies over their foreign competitors.
Berlin has been pushing for a ‘no-spying deal’ with the US for months, but so far with little success. Germany is also advocating the creation of a European computer network which would allow communication traffic not to pass through US-based servers and thus avoid the NSA tapping.
Freedom of information laws are one of the most powerful tools for holding governments to account. No wonder that every now and then, attempts are made to limit their effectiveness. Here’s an example from Germany, where the freedom of information (FOI) portal FragDenStaat.de asked for and received a five-page study written by government staff analyzing a ruling by the German constitutional court:
When the study in question was received from the Ministry of the Interior through an FOI request on FragDenStaat.de, the ministry prohibited publication of the document by claiming copyright. FragDenStaat.de has decided to publish the document anyway to take a stand against this blatant misuse of copyright. The government sent a cease and desist letter shortly after. The Open Knowledge Foundation Germany as the legal entity behind FragDenStaat.de is refusing to comply with the cease and desist order, and is looking forward to a court decision that will strengthen freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of information rights in Germany.
Of course, if it were not possible to publish information received through FOI requests, the latter would become almost useless, as the German government doubtless well knows. So it’s great to see the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany fighting this attempt to undermine the entire FOI system there (donations gratefully received.) It’s also interesting to note how, once again, copyright is being deployed not as a means for promoting creativity, but as a weapon against openness and transparency.
The German government and its intelligence services no longer believe the United States will stop spying on German citizens. Resentment is running deep.
By Hans Leyendecker and Georg Mascolo | Süddeutsche Zeitung | January 13, 2014
The planned “no spy” agreement with Germany seems doomed. While negotiations are still officially underway, Germany has little hope that a bilateral agreement acceptable to the United States is likely. The Americans will not even make a commitment to refrain from snooping on German government and political officials in the future.
There is a great deal of disappointment in German intelligence circles where the Bundesnachrichtendienst [the German intelligence agency] is charged with carrying on the negotiations. One BND expert told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “We’re not getting anything in return.”
BND President Gerhard Schindler is said to have told his staff that he would prefer to do without a no-spy agreement under such circumstances. Resentment among German negotiators is considerable. One high-level negotiator feels the Americans lied to them.
The U.S., for example, refuses to tell Germany the time frame in which Angela Merkel’s telephone was being monitored and whether America eavesdropped on other high-level German government officials’ telephone conversations as well.
Prior to eavesdropping on the German chancellor, the U.S. had guaranteed in writing that American intelligence would avoid doing anything counter to German interests. Requests by German constitutional lawyers for access to a suspected U.S. listening station on the top floor of their embassy on Berlin’s Pariser Platz were rejected by U.S. officials.
The German government had previously informed the U.S. government it would consider such a listening station to be a breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The German attorney general’s office will determine whether a formal investigation should be conducted.
The U.S. refusal to sign an enforceable agreement came as a surprise to Berlin. As late as this summer, National Security Agency Chief General Keith Alexander told his German counterparts, among them BND President Schindler, that the U.S. was preparing a far-reaching no-spy agreement. But he always provided the caveat that such an agreement would have to be approved by the White House, saying his office had no authority to do so independently.
The Americans’ apparent engagement led the German government to expect a quick and positive conclusion. The word in August was that oral agreements with the Americans were already in place stipulating “no mutual espionage, no industrial spying and no infringements of national laws.” These supposed agreements have now vanished into thin air.
A spokesperson for the German government refused to comment on the Süddeutsche Zeitung report because negotiations were still underway. The chancellor’s office stated it had hopes of a conclusion sometime within the next three months.
An EU law requiring companies to log telecommunications data for law enforcement breaches rights, an advocate-general of Europe’s top court has said. Germany in particular had challenged the Data Retention Directive.
Thursday’s opinion at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg responds to challenges against the directive in Ireland and Austria. Adopted the by the EU in 2006 following attacks on the London tube and trains in Madrid , the Data Retention Directive specifies that firms must save telephone and Internet data – user, recipient and length of calls – for a period of up to two years.
“The directive constitutes a serious interference with the fundamental right of citizens to privacy,” Advocate-General Pedro Cruz Villalon said. “The use of those data may make it possible to create a both faithful and exhaustive map of a large portion of a person’s conduct strictly forming part of his private life, or even a complete and accurate picture of his private identity,” he added.
Cruz Villalon argued that the directive increased the risk that corporations and individuals could use the data for unlawful and possibly fraudulent or malicious purposes – even more so as private communication companies controlled the information rather than public authorities. Cruz Villalon also called the directive invalid because it failed to sufficiently specify the circumstances for data access, storage and use – leaving this for member states to define. In addition, Cruz Villalon called one year a disproportionately long time to hold so much information – let alone two.
Relevance, ‘even urgency’
The advocate-general did recognize the “relevance and even urgency” of data retention measures. Should the court decide to follow his opinion, Cruz Villalon suggested that it grant a grace period to change the directive, rather than taking immediate measures against it.
At any given time, the European Court of Justice has nine advocates general, who provide legal but nonbinding opinion ahead of deliberations and decisions by judges.
Germany does not currently comply with the Data Retention Directive, owing in large part to a Constitutional Court ban on the legislation in 2010. The forthcoming grand coalition government hopes to limit data storage in Europe to three months.
On November 7th, Brazil and Germany jointly proposed a preliminary version of a resolution on online privacy at the UN General Assembly. At a time when public outrage over the reach and scope of U.K. and U.S. mass surveillance is at an all time high, the draft resolution is the first official recognition by the UN of the threat that mass surveillance poses to human rights. The draft resolution is significant in many respects but particularly because it condemns “human rights violations and abuses that may result from the conduct of any surveillance of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance of communications… in particular massive surveillance.”
The draft resolution calls upon all states:
- To end privacy violations and prevent further privacy incursions and ensure that national laws, practices and procedures conform to existing international human rights obligations,
- To establish independent national oversight mechanisms capable of maintaining transparency and accountability for state surveillance of communications,
- Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report to the General Assembly on the protection of the right to privacy.
If adopted, this will be the first General Assembly resolution on the right to privacy since 1988. This represents an excellent opportunity for states to update their understanding of international human rights law in the context of the massive technological developments that have taken place over the last 25 years.
While introducing the draft resolution, the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations New York drew attention to the 24th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) side event organized last September by Germany and Norway. During this meeting, member states engaged in a robust debate of online surveillance. EFF, Privacy International, Human Rights Watch, Access, APC, Article 19 and a coalition of 290 NGOs presented formally the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, a set of principles that provide States with a framework to evaluate whether current or proposed surveillance laws and practices are consistent with human rights. These principles have been cited in the new Mexican telecom reform bill, in op-eds and editorials in different countries, refered by policy makers in Sweden and the United Kingdom, and translated in more than 31 languages. During the 24th HRC, we also submitted an official statement calling on states to ensure that advances in technology do not lead to disproportionate increases in states’ interference with the private lives of individuals.
A few weeks earlier, during the opening of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, made clear the indignation and repudiation in public opinion around the world regarding the revelations of a global network of electronic espionage:
“In Brazil, the situation was even more serious, as it emerged that we were targeted by this intrusion. Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately. Corporate information – often of high economic and even strategic value – was at the center of espionage activity. Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the Office of the President of the Republic itself, had their communications intercepted.”
We hope that member states join Brazil and Germany in explicitly condemning mass surveillance by supporting the draft resolution as is currently written, and stay vigilant against watering-down of the text by countries who would continue their ubiquitous spying. Now is the time for all concerned citizens to call upon their governments to conform to the principles signed by 290 NGOs. If your organization hasn’t signed it yet, it can do so here. It’s time to defend the Necessary and Proportionate Principles at the United Nations, and in every other regional or national policy space.
British intelligence agency GCHQ has helped counterpart entities in France, Germany, Spain, and Sweden develop methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic in the last five years, a new report reveals.
Documents supplied by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to the Guardian show the UK Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) enormous influence throughout Europe. The documents detail how the agency developed and promoted spying processes, built relationships with telecommunication companies, and evaded national laws that constrain the surveillance powers of intelligence agencies.
In the wake of outrage expressed over the past week across Europe regarding newly exposed NSA surveillance of European countries – including intercepted communications and the monitoring of phones belonging to officials such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel – documents released Friday by the Guardian show major European countries’ culpability in mass surveillance efforts shepherded by the GCHQ.
The GCHQ is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing partnership between Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
US intelligence officials said the monitoring that received so much indignation from powers like Germany and France was carried out by those countries’ own intelligence agencies and later shared with the US.
In June, the Guardian revealed the GCHQ’s Tempora program, in which the agency tapped into transatlantic fiber-optic cables to execute bulk surveillance. Germany’s justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said at the time that the program sounded “like a Hollywood nightmare” and warned that free societies and actions hidden under “a veil of secrecy” are not compatible.
A nation-by-nation scorecard
In a 2008 survey of European partners, the GCHQ marveled at Germany’s capabilities to produce Tempora-like surveillance. The British service said the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had “huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the internet – they are already seeing some bearers running at 40Gbps and 100Gbps.” The term ‘bearers’ refers to the fiber-optic cables. Gigabits per second (Gbps) measures the speed at which data runs through them.
The documents also show the British were advising German counterparts on how to change or evade laws that restricted advanced surveillance efforts. “We have been assisting the BND (along with SIS [Secret Intelligence Service] and Security Service) in making the case for reform or reinterpretation of the very restrictive interception legislation in Germany,” the survey says.
The report also lauds the GCHQ’s French partner, the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), especially for its cozy relationship with an unnamed telecommunications company.
“DGSE are a highly motivated, technically competent partner, who have shown great willingness to engage on IP [internet protocol] issues, and to work with GCHQ on a ‘cooperate and share’ basis.”
The GCHQ expressed desire to benefit from the DGSE’s relationship with the company.
“We have made contact with the DGSE’s main industry partner, who has some innovative approaches to some internet challenges, raising the potential for GCHQ to make use of this company in the protocol development arena.”
The GCHQ’s work with its French counterpart led to improved capabilities to carry out bulk surveillance, despite growing commercial emphasis on encryption.
“Very friendly crypt meeting with DGSE in July,” British officials said. French intelligence officials were “clearly very keen to provide presentations on their work which included cipher detection in high-speed bearers. [GCHQ's] challenge is to ensure that we have enough UK capability to support a longer term crypt relationship.”
New opportunities in future partnerships
GCHQ ties to Spain’s intelligence service, the National Intelligence Centre (CNI), were bolstered by Spain’s connections to an unnamed British telecom company, giving them “fresh opportunities and uncovering some surprising results.
“GCHQ has not yet engaged with CNI formally on IP exploitation, but the CNI have been making great strides through their relationship with a UK commercial partner. GCHQ and the commercial partner have been able to coordinate their approach. The commercial partner has provided the CNI some equipment whilst keeping us informed, enabling us to invite the CNI across for IP-focused discussions this autumn,” the survey said. It reported that the GCHQ “have found a very capable counterpart in CNI, particularly in the field of Covert Internet Ops.”
When Sweden passed a 2008 law allowing its National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) to execute Tempora-like surveillance via fiber-optic cables, the GCHQ said in the report that “FRA have obtained a…probe to use as a test-bed and we expect them to make rapid progress in IP exploitation following the law change.” The GCHQ went on to express delight in future partnerships with FRA after the law passed.
The survey found strong ties between the GCHQ and Dutch external and internal intelligence services MIVD and AIVD, respectively.
“Both agencies are small, by UK standards, but are technically competent and highly motivated,” British officials said.
The GCHQ also helped AIVD in handling legal constraints to spying.
“The Dutch have some legislative issues that they need to work through before their legal environment would allow them to operate in the way that GCHQ does. We are providing legal advice on how we have tackled some of these issues to Dutch lawyers.”
Contrary to the other nations’ positive marks, the GCHQ country-by-country scorecard shows Italy’s intelligence agencies to be riddled with internal strife.
“GCHQ has had some CT [counter-terrorism] and internet-focused discussions with both the foreign intelligence agency (AISE) and the security service (AISI), but has found the Italian intelligence community to be fractured and unable/unwilling to cooperate with one another,” the report said.
A follow-up six months later noted the GCHQ still saw legal constraints in Italy as hampering AISI’s ability to cooperate.
This latest disclosure calls into question how involved the countries were in the overall surveillance of global citizens and world leaders led by the NSA and GCHQ.
An anti-spying draft resolution written by Germany and Brazil has been submitted to the United Nations amid the US surveillance scandal.
The draft resolution put forward on Friday would reaffirm “the right to privacy and not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence.”
The right is already protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Furthermore, the draft resolution would also reaffirm the “same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular the right to privacy, including in the context of the surveillance of communications.”
The draft was to be processed by the UN secretariat before being handed over to the UN General Assembly’s human rights panel for discussions.
This comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff have both condemned the widespread spying by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Merkel has demanded the United States enter a “no-spying” agreement with Germany and France by the end of 2013 amid recent revelations that the NSA spied on the two countries.
The Chancellor has also stressed that alleged espionage against Berlin and Paris, which are considered among closest allies of the US, should be stopped.
On October 26, a report published by German weekly Der Spiegel revealed that Merkel’s mobile phone had been listed by the NSA Special Collection Service (SCS) since 2002, and that her mobile phone number was still listed in June 2013.
Last month, Rousseff spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, calling for international regulations on data privacy and limiting espionage programs targeting the Internet.
Rousseff’s appeal came after reports were published in September by Brazil’s Globo television network, which revealed that the NSA spied on the president’s emails, phone calls, and text messages.
Snowden, a former CIA employee, leaked two top secret US government spying programs under which the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are eavesdropping on millions of American and European phone records and the Internet data from major Internet companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Apple, and Microsoft.
The NSA scandal took even broader dimensions when Snowden revealed information about its espionage activities targeting friendly countries.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden has met with a German MP in Moscow. He passed a letter addressed to the German government and federal public prosecutor where he allegedly said he is ready to testify over Washington’s probable wiretapping of Merkel’s phone.
During the meeting, Snowden made it “clear that he knows a lot,” Greens lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele told ARD channel.
“He expressed his principle readiness to help clarify the situation. Basis for this is what we must create. That’s what we discussed for a long time and from all angles,” the MP said. “He is essentially prepared to come to Germany and give testimony, but the conditions must be discussed.”
Stroebele, 74, is a member of the German parliament’s control committee which is responsible for monitoring the work of intelligence agencies.
Snowden wouldn’t be able to travel to Germany to give evidence, as that would effectively see his refugee status lifted. If that were to happen, it would be possible for him to be extradited to the US, Interfax news agency quoted an unknown source as saying.
“At the same time, the German General Prosecutor’s Office could in principle send its representatives to Russia or pass its written questions on to Edward Snowden,” the same source said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dispatched the country’s top foreign affairs and intelligence advisers to Washington this week to further investigate the allegations that her cell phone was tapped by the NSA, the report which caused fierce outrage in Germany.
The scandal initially broke when journalists working with Snowden’s leaked documents contacted the German government for clarification. German politicians subsequently suggested involving Snowden as a witness in the wiretapping case.
The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office may summon Snowden to be a witness in the case, German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told Deutschlandfunk radio on Sunday.
“If our suspicions prove correct and a case is opened, the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office will have to consider the possibility of interrogating Snowden as a witness,” she said.
If Snowden were to come to Germany for the case, the EU country could breach US’ requests for extradition, the minister added.
Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger also said that the phone tapping is illegal and constitutes a crime, therefore those responsible should be held accountable.
A parliamentary session will be held on November 18 to discuss the phone tapping. The Greens, along with the far-left Die Linke party, previously asked for a public inquiry into the matter. They were the ones to call on witnesses, including Snowden.
In June, Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who disclosed secret US surveillance programs, fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia.
President Vladimir Putin rejected US demands to extradite Snowden to face charges including espionage.
In early August, Snowden was granted temporary asylum, which can be extended annually.
The NSA has attacked key European institutions such as the EU parliament and banking system, using malware to find out all there is to know about other countries in a power game, Andy Mueller-Moguhn, founder of Buggedplannet.info, tells RT.
He says that in a world where so many communications go over the web we all have something to protect rather than something to hide, as proponents of mass surveillance often argue.
RT: No matter what precautions companies take or measures to protect the privacy of subscribers isn’t the agency [NSA] capable of bypassing all these routes?
Andy Mueller-Moguhn: I would say it like this; unfortunately in Germany we have a situation that the trustworthiness or our foreign and interior intelligence service watching their high level of cooperation with the NSA and GCHQ does not make them trustworthy at all. If they can intercept the stuff, they might hand it over in a bargain to the Americans, which is not helpful.
So this means that what is to be done, is to ensure on whatever level in whatever country that encryption for the end user is becoming available like easy to use and as a standard tool, because you send your postal letters in an envelope so should you do with your emails.
RT: Let’s look at the situation from both sides. On the one hand we have the privacy of citizens that has of course to be respected, but on the other hand there are some companies who are fighting hard to protect their privacy. Doesn’t that give us a cause for concern, that they have something to hide, some skeletons in the closet as they say?
AMM: The point is that we have seen that installations of the United States National Security Agency, attacking also carriers in Europe, as we’ve seen with things that have nothing to do with terrorism or with fighting terrorism. They have a lot to do with power games or with knowing everything about other countries, about business, about embassies, about other country’s governments as we also see with the Brazilian presidential interception.
So obviously the thing that you have nothing to hide is totally wrong in the case that everybody has something to protect and in the days where everything, cultural, economic, political, things go over the internet and advance knowledge of a political decision, which can have for example an impact on stock rates, on currencies, on country’s reputations and so on. This is worth a lot of money and we have not really come to the bottom, we have seen a big part of this NSA approach, we have seen a lot of money, a lot of effort internationally to intercept all communications, but we have not yet come to the question, who is the customer, in the sense who are the guys ordering this, getting the product and using that.
That it is still a very interesting question where we come to monetary, political and other influences being taken with blackmailing, with greymailing, with advanced knowledge about what other people think, act and do.
RT: You mentioned an interesting point here saying that it’s not the point whether we have something to hide, but it’s what we have to protect. In that case what’s your take on the role of America as a global policeman? Does it have any moral authority to conduct global surveillance?
AMM: The point is that we have seen attacks, not passive interception but buggedplannet.info was subject to an attack in the sense that there was malware installed in the system, there were exploits used, the NSA literally took control over the network. This cannot be excused with fighting terrorism at all. This obviously was targeting the European parliament, it was targeting the European airspace control, it was targeting the SWIFT network or the banking network, so obviously there is no moral excuse here in terms of this being to do with fighting terrorism or ensuring security. This is about the global interest of the United States against other European and other peaceful acting countries and democratic organized entities.
Obama Administration Forbids NSA-Critical Novelist Entry to USA
On September 30th, as he was about to fly from Brazil to Denver, Colorado, where he had been invited to attend and address a German Studies conference, the German novelist Ilija Trojanow (pronounced “llya Troyanov”) was informed that he would not be allowed to board the flight on which he was booked.
He was told, after some 45 minutes of waiting while his passport and various computer screens were examined, that his case was “special” and that no further explanation was available. To this date, none has been offered.
But the explanation was and is obvious to anyone aware of Mr. Trojanow’s recent political history, in the context of the Obama administration’s increasingly jaundiced and vehement campaign against whistleblowers and critics of its surveillance-state apparatus. Despite the President’s absurdly facile talk of “welcoming the debate” on NSA data-gobbling and Orwellian tactics, the war on internet freedom is reaching a new high point. The US government is determined to achieve full access to all digital data, and has no intention of compromising with its critics, of which internationally known intellectuals appear to represent a particularly worrisome species.
Asked how the scholars at the conference in Denver had reacted to the government’s action in blocking his entry, Trojanow said that they were “…enormously angry. A great deal of prepared work was carried out in vain. Now they want to write an open letter. It is, obviously, ironic that this should happen in connection with – of all things — an event that was intended to bring the USA and Germany together. The theme of the seminar was ‘transnationalism’”.
Less than two weeks earlier, on September 18th, an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel accompanied by the signatures of 67,000 supporters — including a number of prominent literary and legal figures – had been delivered to the Chancellery in Berlin by Trojanow’s friend and fellow novelist Juli Zeh, its initiator. One of the first signatures was Trojanow’s. The two are co-authors of the book “Angriff auf die Freiheit” (“Freedom Under Attack”), published in 2010 by DTV Deutscher Taschenbuch, the subtitle of which translates to “Security Madness, Surveillance State and the Dismantling of Civil Rights.” Three years before the Snowden revelations, Mr. Trojanow, a native Bulgarian whose family fled political persecution there in the dark ages of Eastern Bloc state repression, had become a prominent critic of policies in the West that had an all-too-familiar smell. The Snowden documents and emerging NSA scandal now brought new urgency to this work.
The German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union, who as opposition leader during the Social Democratic/Green Party coalition government,and later as Chancellor, had given George W. Bush uncritical support for his Iraq policies among many others, was staying true to form in the face of Snowden’s assertion that Germany’s intelligence services were deeply involved in the surveillance scandal. After weeks of evasion and “salami” tactics by which admissions regarding the Snowden charges were made piecemeal once they could no longer be denied; after a highly-publicized trip to Washington by her Interior Minister (analogous to Minister of Homeland Security in the USA), who was photographed at the table with top American intelligence officials, and returned to assure Germans that the US took the issue very seriously and had guaranteed him that no German laws were being broken; after an appearance by Merkel’s Minister of the Chancellery before a special investigative committee to which he had been summoned by an outraged opposition in the German Bundestag (an appearance generally assessed to have been characterized by flippant and insubstantial responses to penetrating questions regarding German complicity alleged by Snowden); after a press conference in which the Chancellor blithely declared that she “preferred to wait and see” what the truth about the allegations might be; and after declaring in a vaguely irritated tone in a TV debate with her Social Democratic challenger in the eminent election – on almost the same day that the letter and petition were presented in Berlin — that she “had no reason to mistrust the NSA,” Merkel was comfortably reelected on September 22nd despite the fact that more than two-thirds of Germans had been polled as being unsatisfied with the government’s response to the scandal. While the conservatives in Berlin and the Obama administration may have breathed a sigh of relief, someone in Washington was apparently not yet ready to forget about Trojanow’s work in the actions which had produced the following document (translated from the original German for Mr. Trojanow by myself):
Honored Madame Chancellor,
Since Edward Snowden made public the existence of the PRISM program, the media have turned their attention to the biggest wiretapping scandal in modern German history. We citizens have, through published reports, become aware that foreign intelligence services — even in the absence of any concrete grounds for suspicion – skim and record our telephone and electronic communications. Through the storage and evaluation of metadata, our contacts, friendships and relationships are apprehended. Our political positions, our “movement profiles” and, in fact, even our daily moods and emotional status are transparent to the security authorities. The “transparent man” has thus become reality.
We have no defenses. There is no means of redress or airing of grievances, no opportunity for access to the files. While our private lives are made transparent, the secret services assert a right to a maximum of opacity regarding their methods. In other words: we are experiencing an historic attack upon our democratic rule of law, namely, the reversal of the principle of a “presumption of innocence” into a millionfold general suspicion.
Madame Chancellor, you stated in your summer press conference that Germany is “not a surveillance state.” Since the Snowden revelations, however, we have no choice but to say: unfortunately, it is. In the same connection you summarized your approach to the investigation of the PRISM affair with the apt phrase: “I prefer to wait and see what happens.”
But we do not wish to wait. It is increasingly difficult to avoid the impression that this behavior by the American and British intelligence services is tacitly accepted by the German government. For that reason we ask you: is it politically desirable that the NSA conducts surveillance of German citizens in a manner that is forbidden to the German authorities by the constitution and the German Federal Constitutional (Supreme) Court? Do the German intelligence services profit from information received from the US authorities, and is that the reason for your hesitant reaction? How can it be justified that the BND (“Bundesnachrichtendienst”, federal intelligence authority) and the Verfassungsschutz (“Constitutional Protection”, federal domestic intelligence agency) deploy the NSA spy-program XKeyScore, for which there is no legal basis, in the surveillance of search engines? Is the German Federal Government in the process of taking a detour around the rule of law, instead of defending it?
We call upon you to tell the people of this nation the full truth about the electronic spying. And we want to know what the federal government proposes to do against it. You are charged by the constitution with protecting Germany’s citizens from harm. Madame Chancellor, what is your strategy?
/ Juli Zeh / Ilija Trojanow / Carolin Emcke / Friedrich von Borries /Moritz Rinke / Eva Menasse / Tanja Dückers / Norbert Niemann / Sherko Fatah / Angelina Maccarone / Michael Kumpfmüller / Tilman Spengler / Steffen Kopetzky / Sten Nadolny / Markus Orths / Sasa Stanisic / Micha Brumlik / Josef Haslinger / Simon Urban / Kristof Magnusson / Andres Veiel / Feridun Zaimoglu / Ingo Schulze / Falk Richter / Hilal Sezgin / Georg Oswald
(Translation from the German original: Gregory Barrett)
Trojanow was awarded the 2006 Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair for his adventure novel “Der Weltensammler” (“The Collector of Worlds”). He delivered the laudatory speech for the Nobel Prizewinner Herta Müller at the ceremony marking her acceptance of the Franz Werfel Human Rights Prize. In Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, he had been a guest writer at the invitation of the Goethe Institute. On October 5th he was to speak at the conference of the German Studies Association in Denver about his most recent novel “EisTau” (“Ice Thaw”). Ms. Zeh is best known to the German-speaking public as the author of several novels including “Adler und Engel” (“Eagles and Angels”), which has been translated into 31 languages, and “Nullzeit” (“Zero Hour” or “Out of Time”), but also holds impressive law degrees and has worked at the United Nations. The forum afforded the two highly-respected intellectuals in various media, from the powerful news magazine “Der Spiegel,” to the national public radio network Deutschlandradio, to popular national television talk shows may well be making the Merkel government nervous about the possibility that the surveillance issue — which had appeared to be fading in the public consciousness as the Chancellor and her allies had hoped — could still catch fire with the help of the continued revelations being parceled out by Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and a growing network. Such coverage has given the German writers’ campaign a visibility seldom granted to the usual suspects on the German left.
Appeals to the German government for mediation and clarity following the US refusal to allow Mr. Trojanow’s entry into the land of the free have, predictably, been without success at this writing. The novelist himself immediately applied for a new US visa and is determined to elicit a clear statement about the grounds for the ban.
Meanwhile, Trojanow and Zeh are working on a new international appeal, with which they hope to generate broad-based resistance to the massive destruction of civil- and privacy rights worldwide represented by the NSA’s new technological might. There are links already in place to the London-based group “Index on Censorship” and many other groups including Amnesty International, Liberty, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Russian PEN Center. The German writer-activists hope to bring more Americans into their network as well. The signs may be auspicious, too, for legislative activity at the European level: in late September a 36-page report prepared for the European Union stated that “…Prism seems to have allowed an unprecedented scale and depth in intelligence gathering, which goes beyond counter-terrorism and beyond espionage activities carried out by liberal regimes in the past. This may lead towards an illegal form of total information awareness where data of millions of people are subject to collection and manipulation by the NSA.” It went on to point out that “…there are no privacy rights for non-Americans under Prism and related programmes” and that the US probably places “no limitations on exploiting or intruding a non-US person’s privacy.” However, those of us who have watched for many years as the European Parliament and EU Commission have taken one principled position after another against US policies, only to buckle later under pressure, are under no illusion that things will be much different this time. The stark contrast between the Merkel government’s initial protestations of concern over PRISM and other NSA programs for public consumption, and its subsequent low-to-no profile on the issue, demonstrates that below the surface, the European interest in maintaining its often obsequious posture as regards its mighty ally will once again trump other concerns in the absence of a public outcry. Ilija Trojanow and his partners, however, hope to keep the urgency of the issue alive in the international political and literary spheres.
“It is more than ironic that an author who for years has been speaking out about the dangers of surveillance and the secret state within the state should be denied entry into the ‘land of the brave and the free,’ ” writes Trojanow. “No more than a minor, individual case, to be sure: but it’s indicative of the consequences of a disastrous development and it reveals the naivety of the attitude of many citizens who comfort themselves with the mantra, ‘But it’s got nothing to do with me’. That might still be the case – however, the net is tightening. For these citizens the secret services are still just a rumor, but in the not-so-distant future the knock on the door will be very real indeed.”
Gregory Barrett is a translator and musician living in Germany.