A minor traffic stop went nightmarishly wrong for a New Mexico man who was detained by police and forced to undergo a series of anal probes and other medical examinations against his will.
David Eckert had just finished shopping at Walmart in Deming, New Mexico when an officer pulled him over for failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign. According to the local KOB TV station, federal documents claim that police noticed Eckert clenching his buttocks when they asked him to step outside of the car, indicating that he may have been carrying drugs in his anal cavity.
After detaining Eckert and requesting a search warrant from a judge, police took him to a local hospital for doctors to perform a search. The doctor refused, saying the search was unethical. Police then took Eckert to the Gila Regional Medical Center, where doctors agreed to cooperate.
The doctors then performed a wide array of procedures, all without the consent of Eckert, who protested each one. First, doctors took an X-Ray of his abdomen, which revealed no narcotics hidden inside the body. Then, doctors performed two anal exams with their fingers, both of which failed to uncover any drugs.
After the failure of these searches, Eckert underwent three different enemas and was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. He watched as each stool search failed to uncover any narcotics.
Another X-Ray was taken, and, finally, doctors sedated Eckert and performed a colonoscopy. Again, no drugs were found.
“The thought that they could do this to a man in our country is terrifying,” Shannon Kennedy, Eckert’s attorney, said to KOB. “Our community should be outraged … This is like something out of a science fiction film, anal probing by government officials and public employees.”
According to Kennedy, not only was the issued search warrant overly broad and lacking in probable cause, but it was also only valid in Luna County, where Deming is located and Eckert was arrested. After the first hospital refused to perform the anal search, police took Eckert to Gila, which is located in a separate county altogether. If that is the case, then doctors performed all eight of the previously mentioned procedures illegally and without the consent of the patient.
To make matters worse, the search warrant expired at 10 p.m. while doctors didn’t even begin prepping Eckert for the colonoscopy until 1 a.m. the next morning, when the warrant had been expired for hours.
The hospital even billed Eckert for the procedures and is threatening to take him to collections if he doesn’t pay.
Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante refused to comment on the incident due to a pending lawsuit, but said, “We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place.”
Eckert is suing the city of Deming, Hidalgo County, the police officers behind the incident, the deputy district attorney, and the Gila Regional Medical Center, including Robert Wilcox, M.D. and Okay Odocha, M.D.
“If the officers in Hidalgo County and the City of Deming are seeking warrants for anal cavity searches based on how they’re standing and the warrant allows doctors at the Gila Hospital of Horrors to go in and do enemas and colonoscopies without consent, then anyone can be seized and that’s why the public needs to know about this,” Kennedy said.
Brazil is urging a plan to introduce local data storage for Internet giants like Facebook and Google in order to keep the information they get from Brazilian users safe –as part of a complex of measures to oppose US spying.
The new law could impact Google, Facebook, Twitter and other Internet global companies that operate in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country and one of the world’s largest telecommunications markets.
The country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is urging lawmakers to vote as early as this week on the law, according to Reuters who have seen the draft of the legislation.
“The government can oblige Internet service companies … to install and use centers for the storage, management and dissemination of data within the national territory,” the draft of the document read.
Rousseff’s calls come after surveillance leaks by the US in Brazil that went as far as tracking the personal phone calls and e-mails of the President herself.
Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled a scheduled meeting at the White House after leaked documents showed the NSA spied on her country’s state oil company.
“We are not regulating the way information flows, just requiring that data on Brazilians be stored in Brazil so it is subject to the jurisdiction of Brazilian courts,” Rousseff spokesman Thomas Traumann said. “This has nothing to do with global communications.”
However, the companies disagree saying that the legislation will increase costs of services, and damage the economic activity connected with information.
Last week a coalition of business groups representing dozens of Internet companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and eBay sent a letter to Brazilian lawmakers.
“In-country data storage requirements would detrimentally impact all economic activity that depends on data flows,” the letter read, Reuters reported.
Many also threatened the law will scare the companies, while others, nevertheless, were of the opinion that the companies would comply if faced with no other options.
This week, Brazil is expected to vote on a cyber-security bill to create a state system to protect the country’s citizens from spying.
When the news on the bill emerged two weeks ago, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tweeted the news, stressing the need for greater security “to prevent possible espionage.”
The latest legislation project comes against a backdrop of Brazil set to host a conference next April to debate ways to guard Internet privacy from espionage.
The meeting is to be held by ICAAN, the body that manages web domain names. It is thought to be neutral and includes governments, civil society and industry.
Meanwhile, BRICS companies are working to create a “new Internet”.
In particular, Brazil has been reported to be building a “BRICS cable” that will create an independent link between Brazil, South Africa, India, China and Russia, in order to bypass NSA cables and avoid spying.
The cable is set to go from the Brazilian town of Fortaleza to the Russian town of Vladivostok via Cape Town, Chennai and Shantou.
The length of the fiber-optic cable will be almost 35,000 kilometers, making it one of the most ambitious underwater telecom projects ever attempted.
Last week, most of the BRICS countries joined talks to hammer out a UN resolution that would condemn “indiscriminate” and “extra-territorial” surveillance, and ensure “independent oversight” of electronic monitoring.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that “contacts [between Moscow and Washington] never stop,” when asked if the latest publication of secret files leaked by the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor would affect relations between Russia and the US.
Also, Lavrov made it clear that the situation surrounding Snowden is irrelevant to Russia.
“We have formulated our position on Snowden and have said everything,” he said.
- China echoes Brazil’s call for cyberspace guidelines (thebricspost.com)
The German Chancellor’s mobile phone has been on an NSA target list since 2002 and was code-named “GE Chancellor Merkel”, according to Der Spiegel. The paper also reports that President Obama assured Merkel that he did not know her phone was tapped.
The monitoring operation was still in force even a few weeks before Obama’s visit to Berlin in June 2013.
In the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the US embassy in Berlin. It also warned that its exposure would lead to “grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government”.
Using the spying branch, NSA and CIA staff were tapping communications in Berlin’s government district with high-tech surveillance.
The magazine says that according to a secret document from 2010, such branches existed in about 80 locations around the world, including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt.
However, it is unclear, Der Spiegel reports, if the SCS obtained recorded conversations or just connection data.
President Obama, however, told Merkel that he was not aware that her phone was bugged, if he had known, he would have immediately stopped it, Der Spiegel reports as it also disclosed the recent conversation between the two.
The German newspaper cites the Chancellor’s office, which said that during Wednesday’s call Obama expressed his deep regret and apologized to the Chancellor.
Earlier, Barack Obama assured Merkel that his country was not monitoring her communications, but failed to confirm or deny the tapping took place in the past.
Speaking to her German counterpart, Susan E. Rice, the President’s national security adviser, also insisted that Obama did not know about the monitoring of Merkel’s phone, and said it was not currently happening. However, she also failed to deny it happened in the past.
Angela Merkel called President Obama over the German government’s suspicions the US could have tapped her mobile phone on Wednesday.
Following the call, US ambassador to Germany Steffen Seibert stated that Merkel had made clear to Obama that if the information proved trued it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust”.
A few days earlier, the US President had to convince his French colleague of the same issues.
The Le Monde newspaper reported earlier this week that the NSA spied on the agency records of millions of phone calls of top French politicians and business people. Later The Guardian revealed citing former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the leadership of 35 nations was spied on; the list of countries however did not follow.
In response to allegations, Obama promised that the US secret service would revise its methods of working in order to both provide the security of citizens and not to interfere with their privacy.
Germany will send heads of its foreign and domestic intelligence agencies to Washington to hold talks with the White House and the National Security Agency in order to push forward” an investigation into allegations the US spied on its leader.”
“What exactly is going to be regulated, how and in what form it will be negotiated and by whom, I cannot tell you right now,” German government spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters.
German media citing sources close to the intelligence service reported on Saturday that the delegation will include top officials from the German secret service.
Earlier, Germany and France said they want “a no-spy deal” with the US to be signed by the end of the year.
The Foreign Policy reported on Saturday that 21 one countries are now participating in talks over a draft UN General Resolution aimed at holding back US government surveillance.
EU leaders say their relations with the US have been undermined by reports of NSA spying on European leaders and ordinary citizens.
A partnership with America should be built on respect and trust, they said in a joint statement on Friday.
“[The leaders] stressed that intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism,” the BBC cites the statement as reading. “A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering.”
The European Parliament recently voted for the suspension of US access to the global financial database held by a Belgian company because of concerns that the US is snooping on the database for financial gain rather than just to combat terrorism.
However, anti-war activist Richard Becker doubted President Obama did not know the German Chancellor’s phone was bugged.
“These kinds of assertions are comical,” he told RT. “It shows that the US’ relationship with other countries is based on its notion of its “American exceptionalism.” There is in fact an American exceptionalism – no other country in the world spies on everybody else and all of the countries and feels free to intervene in all other countries,” he said.
Becker says the spying scandal shows “the nature of the relationships” between the US and other states.
“Even among the allies they are in contention and competition among each other and not to mention the kind of relationship that is carried out against those countries that the US considers its enemies,” he said.
France has called for an explanation for the “unacceptable” and “shocking” reports of NSA spying on French citizens. Leaked documents revealed the spy agency records millions of phone calls and monitors politicians and high-profile business people.
The US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin was summoned by the French Foreign Ministry to account for the espionage allegations on Monday morning.
“I have immediately summoned the US ambassador and he will be received this morning at the Quai d’Orsay [the French Foreign Ministry],” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told press. He added that “we must quickly assure that these practices aren’t repeated.”
In addition, citing the report on French publication Le Monde, Interior Minister Manuel Valls spoke out on national television against US spy practices.
“The revelations in Le Monde are shocking and demand adequate explanations from the American authorities in the coming hours,” said Valls on television channel Europe 1.
He went on to say that it is totally unacceptable for an allied country to spy on France.
Ambassador Rivkin refrained from commenting on the spy allegations on Monday morning and told Reuters that French-US ties are the “best they have been for a generation.”
Le Monde revealed in a report based on the security leaks of former CIA worker Edward Snowden that the NSA recorded 70.3 million phone calls between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
The NSA reportedly carries out its espionage in France using a program called ‘US-985D’ which is able to listen in on specific telephone calls and pick up on text messages according to key words used.
Moreover, Le Monde also wrote that it had reason to believe that the spying was not just limited to citizens suspected of being involved in terrorism. According to the data released by Snowden the NSA also eavesdropped on politicians and prominent business figures.
The newspaper did not give any indications as to the identity of the high-profile people.
France is not the only EU nation to be targeted by NSA surveillance. Germany took issue with the US government after it was revealed the NSA was tapping phone lines and recording electronic data in the country.
The EU will take steps to curtail US data mining on Monday in a vote to change data protection rules. The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties is expected to decide on the issue that would authorize fines for violation of EU data protection.
The US maintains that its spying activities are in the interests of national security and protect against terrorism. However, Snowden leaks released by Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald showed the NSA had monitored Brazilian state-owned oil giant Petrobras and infiltrated the electronic communications of the Brazilian and Mexican presidents.
Mexico has also demanded an explanation for reports released by Der Spiegel on extensive spying on Mexican top officials and politicians.
Der Spiegal revealed that former President Felipe Calderon had also been a target for NSA espionage. Citing a classified internal report, it said the US monitors “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability.”
US electronic surveillance in Mexico reportedly targeted top officials, including both current and previous presidents. Intelligence produced by the NSA helped Americans get an upper hand in diplomatic talks and find good investment opportunities.
The US National Security Agency was apparently very happy with its successes in America’s southern neighbor, according to classified documents leaked by Edwards Snowden and analyzed by the German magazine, Der Spiegel. It reports on new details of the spying on the Mexican government, which dates back at least several years.
The fact that Mexican President Peña Nieto is of interest to the NSA was revealed earlier by Brazilian TV Globo, which also had access to the documents provided by Snowden. Spiegel says his predecessor Felipe Calderon was a target too, and the Americans hacked into his public email back in May 2010.
The access to Calderon electronic exchanges gave the US spies “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability,” the magazine cites an NSA top secret internal report as saying. The operation to hack into the presidential email account was dubbed “Flatliquid” by the American e-spooks.
The bitter irony of the situation is that Calderon during his term in office worked more closely with Washington than any other Mexican president before him. In 2007 he even authorized the creation of a secret facility for electronic surveillance, according to a July publication in the Mexican newspaper, Excelsior.
The surveillance on President Nieto started when he was campaigning for office in the early summer of 2012, the report goes on. The NSA targeted his phone and the phones of nine of his close associates to build a map of their regular contacts. From then it closely monitored those individuals’ phones as well, intercepting 85,489 text messages, including those sent by Nieto.
After the Globo TV report, which mentioned spying on Mexico only in passing, Nieto stated that US President Barack Obama had promised him that he would investigate the accusations and punish those responsible of any misconduct. The reaction was far milder than that from Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, another target of NSA’s intensive interest, who has since canceled a planned trip to the US and delivered a withering speech at the UN General Assembly, which condemned American electronic surveillance.
Another NSA operation in Mexico dubbed “Whitetamale” allowed the agency to gain access to emails of high-ranking officials in country’s Public Security Secretariat, a law enforcement body that combats drug cartels and human trafficking rings. The hacking, which happened in August 2009, gave the US information about Mexican crime fighting, but also provided access to “diplomatic talking-points,” an internal NSA document says.
In a single year, this operation produced 260 classified reports that facilitated talks on political issues and helped the Americans plan international investments.
“These TAO [Tailored Access Operations – an NSA division that handles missions like hacking presidential emails] accesses into several Mexican government agencies are just the beginning – we intend to go much further against this important target,” the document reads. It praises the operation as a “tremendous success” and states that the divisions responsible for this surveillance are “poised for future successes.”
Economic espionage is a motive for NSA spying, which the agency vocally denied, but which appears in the previous leaks. The agency had spied on the Brazilian oil giant, Petrobras, according to earlier revelations. This combined with reports that the NSA hacked into the email of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, triggered a serious deterioration of relations between the two countries.
While the NSA declined comment to the German magazine, the Mexican Foreign Ministry replied with an email, which condemned any form of espionage on Mexican citizens. The NSA presumably could read that email at the same time as the journalists, Der Spiegel joked.
Lawmakers in Oakland intend to spend millions of dollars awarded to the California city in a federal grant to a police dragnet that promises to examine surveillance footage, riling critics who assert the intention of the grant was to stop terrorism.
When the new program debuts in approximately one year police will be able to track drivers as they travel through tolls, scan license plates with the roughly 3,000 surveillance cameras placed throughout the city, and monitor social media platforms to learn about crimes before they occur.
The Oakland program, officially referred to as the Domain Awareness Center, according to the New York Times, comes at a time when police departments across the US are using federal money to launch similar surveillance efforts modeled after the New York Police Department. The NYPD, which operates within New York City as well as far outside, has used federal grants to build a massive surveillance network capable of linking cameras and license plate readers to criminal and suspected terrorist databases.
The Domain Awareness Center also plans to plant gunshot detection sensors through Oakland, which is consistently ranked among the most dangerous cities in the US. Forbes magazine reported that violent crime affects 1,683 of every 100,000 residents in the city, making it the third most dangerous city in America with a population between 100,000 and 499,000 in 2013.
The Oakland City Council voted unanimously on July 31 to adopt the plan to build the surveillance center, which officials have said will be staffed 24 hours a day. Lawmakers voted at the same meeting to ban hammers and spray paint cans at protests in fear that the items will be used as weapons. Waiting outside, protesters admonished council members with chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
“The Domain Awareness Center is the guard tower which will watch over every person in the city of Oakland,” shouted demonstrator Mark Raymond, as quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle. “This program is an attempt to criminalize and imprison all people who live and pass through Oakland.”
All told, the surveillance center’s costs are expected to total $10.2 million in federal grants, and while legislators said they were cognizant of residents’ security while drafting the bill some representatives were shouted down.
“We have tried our best to find the sweet spot where are going to take advantage of the tools that we have at hand to make our city safe… We have done everything we can to safeguard privacy,” said councilwoman Libby Schaaf before she was cut off by jeers and one protester who suggested she “go home to your mansion and kill yourself.”
Schaaf did admit that, while police have traditionally needed just a small evidence sample to arrest a suspect, the new center will have the capability to “paint a pretty detailed picture of someone’s personal life, someone who may be innocent.”
Oakland was awarded a federal grant to ramp up security near the Port of Oakland, a thriving cargo center that is one of the busiest in the US. The 19-mile waterfront is the fifth-busiest container port in the US, with 1,800 ships arriving every year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Over $14 billion in goods were exported from the bustling hub in 2012.
To protect the port, and watch civilians throughout the region, Oakland signed a contract with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to build the Domain Awareness Center. The company, which earns most of its $12 million in annual revenue from military contracts, also worked with the NYPD but later paid $500 million to avoid a federal prosecution for receiving illegal kickbacks.
The Times reported that this project is not the first time Oakland has sought to develop such technology. A city audit viewed by the paper revealed that lawmakers spent nearly $2 million in 2012 alone on police tools that did not work or could not be used for a variety of reasons.
Linda Lye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said this project might work as intended, but that mere intention already creates a scary problem.
“What they did is approve a vast surveillance center without understanding the implications,” she said earlier this year. “The privacy policies would be drafted only after the center is built. At that point, what opportunity will there be for to determine if the safeguards are sufficient?”
UK authorities reportedly raided the Guardian’s office in London to destroy hard drives in an effort to stop future publications of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The action is unlikely to prevent new materials coming out.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger revealed in a Monday article posted on the British newspaper’s website that intelligence officials from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) told him that he would either have to hand over all the classified documents or have the newspaper’s hard drives destroyed.
After more talks, two “security experts” from GCHQ – the British version of the National Security Agency – visited the Guardian’s London offices.
Rusbridger wrote that the government officials then watched as computers, which contained classified information passed on by Snowden, were physically destroyed in one of the newspaper building’s basements.
“We can call off the black helicopters,” Rusbridger said one of the officials joked.
Another source familiar with the event confirmed to Reuters that Guardian employees destroyed the computers as UK officials observed.
During negotiations with the government, Rusbridger said that the newspaper could not fulfill its journalistic duty if it satisfied the authorities’ requests.
But GCHQ reportedly responded by telling the Guardian that it had already sparked the debate, which was enough.
“You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more,” Reuters quoted the unnamed official as saying.
In the article, Rusbridger explained that because of existing “international collaborations” between journalists, it was still possible to report the story and “take advantage of the most permissive legal environments.”
“I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations… Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that [reporter Glenn] Greenwald lived in Brazil?” wrote Rusbridger.
“The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents.”
Rusbridger pointed out that the whole incident felt like a “pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age.”
The news comes after Sunday’s international incident during which David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was held at Heathrow airport under the UK Terrorism Act for the maximum time allowed before pressing charges. Greenwald was the reporter who exclusively broke the Snowden story.
The editor promised that the Guardian will “continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London. The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.”
Another US security source told Reuters that Miranda’s detention was meant to send a message to those who received Snowden’s classified documents, about how serious the UK is in closing all the leaks in relation to the whistleblower’s revelations.
Greenwald, who first published secrets leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, responded by promising to release more documents. He added that the UK would be “sorry” for detaining his partner for nine hours.
Snowden, who has been granted asylum by Russia, gave Greenwald up to 20,000 documents with details about the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ surveillance operations.
‘US is the intellectual author behind detention of Miranda’
Lawyer Eva Golinger told RT that the UK has violated all concepts of freedom of the press. “We are talking about a media outlet. Journalists and their spouses and partners being detained and interrogated. So clearly there has been a decision made that everything related to Edward Snowden must be captured no matter what, violating anyone’s right under any country’s laws.”
Golinger believes that government’s pressure on journalists could inspire some to cover the topic of government surveillance even more, instead of discouraging them to do so.
“The more principled the people reporting are, the more they will continue to pursue that work in the face of threat. Such cheap threats and intimidation give people even more reasons to continue doing what they are doing because it shows that those in power are clearly frightened of the information that is being put out,” she explained.
“At the same time it could certainly intimidate other journalists and create the environment of self-censorship, where many would be unwilling to take the risks that are involved with national security reporting, particularly when it comes to the US.”
Golinger argued that US is the “intellectual author behind the detainment of Miranda.”
“We are talking about a search and capture that is going on for Edward Snowden and it is the US that is leading that effort. It is not the UK or other European nations, they are merely abiding by the wishes of the US…What I believe is that Washington has simply put out a request to all of its allies that anyone related to Edward Snowden must be detained if they come into your territory and the UK abided by that and did their duty.”
Contaminated groundwater accumulating under the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has risen 60cm above the protective barrier, and is now freely leaking into the Pacific Ocean, the plant’s operator TEPCO has admitted.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which is responsible for decommissioning the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, on Saturday said the protective barriers that were installed to prevent the flow of toxic water into the ocean are no longer coping with the groundwater levels, Itar-Tass reports.
The contaminated groundwater, which mixes with radioactive leaks seeping out of the plant, has already risen to 60cm above the barriers – the fact which TEPCO calls a major cause of the massive daily leak of toxic substances.
Earlier on Friday, the company announced it started pumping out contaminated groundwater from under Fukushima, and managed to pump out 13 tons of water in six hours on Friday. TEPCO also said it plans to boost the pumped-out amount to some 100 tons a day with the help of a special system, which will be completed by mid-August. This will be enough to seal off most of the ongoing ocean contamination, according to TEPCO’s estimates.
However, Japan’s Ministry of Industry has recently estimated that some 300 tons of contaminated groundwater have been flowing into the ocean daily ever since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the disaster.
TEPCO also promised it will urgently reinforce the protective shields to keep radioactive leaks at bay. The company has repeatedly complained it is running out of space and has had to resort to pumping water into hastily-built tanks of questionable reliability, as more than 20,000 tons of water with high levels of radioactive substances has accumulated in the plant’s drainage system.
Water samples recently taken at an underground passage below the Fukushima nuclear plant showed extreme levels of radiation comparable to those taken immediately after the March 2011 catastrophe. The tested water, which had been mixing with ground water and flowing into the ocean, contained 2.35 billion Becquerels of cesium per liter – some 16 million times above the limit.
Despite “justified questions” to the American intelligence community regarding eavesdropping on German networks, the US remains Berlin’s “most loyal ally”, announced Chancellor Angela Merkel in interview to Die Zeit weekly.
Merkel has made her first detailed comment into the unraveling diplomatic scandal with the America’s National Security Agency (NSA) global telecommunication eavesdropping, including those of its European allies, Germany foremost among them.
It emerged recently that Germany happens to be the most-snooped-on EU country by the American National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA’s real-time online surveillance PRISM program allows US intelligence agencies to intercept virtually any communications over the internet, phone calls and makes possible direct access to files stored on the servers of major internet companies.
Merkel declared that she herself has learnt about the US surveillance programs, such as the NSA’s PRISM spy program, “through the current reporting” in the media.
In early July spokesman Steffen Seibert announced on the behalf of Chancellor Merkel that “The monitoring of friends – this is unacceptable. It can’t be tolerated,” adding that Merkel had already delivered her concerns to the US. ”We are no longer in the Cold War,” Seibert added.
The German government subsequently summoned US Ambassador Philip Murphy to Berlin to explain the incendiary reports.
At the same time according to new revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Germany’s Spiegel magazine, the American NSA and Germany’s intelligence agencies are “in bed together.”
Seibert told Reuters this week that German’s Federal Intelligence Agency’s (BND) cooperation with the NSA “took place within strict legal and judicial guidelines and is controlled by the competent parliamentary committee.”
‘Intelligence is essential for democracies’
Merkel stressed that intelligence “has always been and will in future be essential for the security of citizens” of democratic countries. “A country without intelligence work would be too vulnerable,” Merkel said.
At the same time, she observed that there must be a “balance between maximum freedom and what the state needs to give its citizens the greatest possible security.”
Merkel emphasized that German-American special relationship should not be endangered by the incident.
“America has been, and is, our most loyal ally over all the decades,” Merkel said, but pointed out that Washington should clear up the situation with the US allegedly bugging the embassies of the European countries and the EU facilities, noting that “the Cold War is over.”
Stasi and NSA are not comparable
In acknowledgment of the Germany’s contemporary history, Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, refused to make any parallels between the methods of work of DDR’s secret police Stasi and America’s NSA.
“For me, there is absolutely no comparison between the Stasi and the work of intelligence agencies in democratic states,” she was quoted as saying. “They are two completely different things and such comparisons only lead to a trivialization of what the Stasi did to [East Germany’s] people,” said Merkel.
In the face of the national elections in September, Angela Merkel has come under fierce criticism in connection with the NSA spying scandal for not protesting unequivocally enough, while various German politicians demanded to stop spying immediately.
Germany’s center-left opposition insists on questioning country’s officials with a view to find out what exactly they knew about the American surveillance of German communications before the eavesdropping scandal emerged.
Earlier Germany’s Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger both declined any knowledge of the eavesdropping performed by the American US in German networks.
In the interview to Die Zeit Chancellor Merkel revealed that reports from German intelligence agencies are being delivered to her chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla who coordinates their work from the chancellery.
The head of the center-left opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) Sigmar Gabriel told Spiegel Online that “Ms. Merkel is now trying to shift political responsibility to her chief of staff.”
“That’s an old game: [pretending] not knowing anything at first, trying to play down the problem and then finally pointing the finger at a staff member. But it’s not going to work because it’s clear that the dimensions of this scandal are so great that no person other than the chancellor can ensure that basic rights are defended in Germany,” the SPD leader claimed.
Today battling terrorism is impossible “without the possibility of telecommunications monitoring,” Merkel told the weekly. “The work of intelligence agencies in democratic states was always vital to the safety of citizens and will remain so in the future.”
In the meantime, Friedrich is meeting US Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco in Washington on Friday for talks dedicated to the NSA scandal. Though Merkel’s government is not likely to pedal the spying issue, Berlin surely expects explanation from Washington in regards of the ‘Snowdengate’ “for all the more-than-justified questions”, Merkel was quoted as telling Die Zeit.
The Dallas law office representing a State Department whistleblower was broken into and robbed during the first weekend of July. Three computers were stolen and the firm’s file cabinets had been searched, but valuables were left untouched.
“It’s a crazy, strange and suspicious situation,” attorney Cary Schulman of the Schulman & Mathias law office told Foreign Policy Magazine’s The Cable.
The burglars left behind silver bars, video equipment and other valuables, causing Schulman to believe that they were looking to find information on the case of former State Department inspector general investigator Aurelia Fedenisn, who leaked government documents last month. Fedenisn provided CBS News with documents that accuse the State Department of covering up criminal investigations involving its diplomats and employees, including offenses such as illicit drug use, sexual solicitation of minors and prostitutes, and sexual harassment.
The documents state that US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman “was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.”
Schulman believes that the perpetrators of the burglary may have been politically motivated supporters of the Obama administration, but the suspects have not yet been identified.
“It’s clear to me that it was somebody looking for information and not money. My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can’t think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information,” Schulman told The Cable.
Last month, lawyers representing Fedenisn told The Cable that the State Department tried to silence her by threatening her and her family. Law enforcement officers allegedly camped in front of her house, harassed her children, and tried to make Fedenisn incriminate herself.
Schulman believes that officials are trying to force Fedenisn to sign papers admitting that she stole the documents – a crime that the former investigator denies.
The law office does not believe the State Department authorized a break-in, but suspects that supporters of the administration may be to blame.
“It wasn’t professional enough,” he said. “It is possible that an Obama or Hillary supporter feels that I am unfairly going after them. And the timing of this is right after several weeks of very public media attention so it seems to me most likely that the information sought is related to that case. I don’t know for sure and I want the police to do their work.”
Local Fox affiliate KDFW aired a surveillance video of the two suspected burglars, who can be seen walking out of the office carrying computers.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki claims the agency had no involvement in the break-in.
“Any allegation that the Department of State authorized someone to break into Mr. Schulman’s law firm is false and baseless,” she said.
A wave of outraged comments have swept the German media after it was revealed Monday that British secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) wiretapped the dataflow of Germany’s major transatlantic cable.
The northern German public broadcaster NDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported late on Monday that Germany’s external intelligence service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) has been in the dark about GCHQ wiretapping Transatlantic Telephone Cable No. 14 (TAT-14) connecting Germany with the US via UK, in the framework of its Tempora data collection project.
The TAT-14 fiber optic cables entered service in 2001. It is operated by private consortium German Telekom and used by around 50 international communication companies for phone calls, internet connection, data transfer etc.
Countries like Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the UK itself also use this cable for internet connection to North America.
The capacity of the 15,000km TAT-14 is enormous; it transfers hundreds of gigabytes of data per second in both directions. The report claimed British GCHQ has already had access to 21,600 terabytes of private and business German data transferred through the cable.
‘We haven’t asked NSA and GCHQ to protect us’
The initial reaction from official Berlin concerning Edward Snowden’s revelations about British intelligence straddling Germany’s major fiber optics cables without Berlin’s knowledge was rather moderate.
Senior German Interior Ministry official Ulrich Weinbrenner admitted to the Bundestag committee that it was known “in general form” that foreign tapping programs – like American PRISM and British Tempora – existed.
Having met American President Barack Obama last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautiously commented that collecting information needs ‘proportionality’ and that “the free democratic order is based on people feeling safe.”
However, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert announced that Berlin wanted explanations from NATO allies “on what legal basis and to which extent” surveillance had been conducted.
The head of the Free Democratic Party parliamentary group, Rainer Brüderle, demanded an investigation.
“A comprehensive monitoring of citizens in the network cannot and will not be accepted ,” he told Passau Neue Presse.
“We need to step back here and say clearly: mass surveillance is not what we want,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green member in charge of a planned overhaul of the European Union’s data protection laws.
“We urge the Federal Government and the EU Commission to initiate an infringement proceedings against the UK government,” which would have to deal with the matter, Albrecht said to Berliner Zeitung.
“The Federal Government and the Commission must take the issue of protecting fundamental rights seriously,” the rapporteur added in the Judiciary Committee.
Albrecht’ thoughts were echoed by CSU MEP Manfred Weber who told Berliner Zeitung that “If European law has been broken, such as in relation to the retention, the Commission must act.”
The harshest comment came from German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who dubbed the total eavesdropping from a NATO ally a “Hollywood nightmare.”
Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar called on the federal government to proceed on an international level against data espionage from abroad.
“The federal government must insist that our emails will not be penetrated by foreign intelligence services,” he demanded according to Bild newspaper.
The methods used by the American NSA and British GCHQ agencies are “secret, but lawful” and “subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards,” stated UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.
But such statements have produced little effect on the public or within expert communities.
“How much and which data of German citizens and companies had been secretly accessed by the Anglo-American intelligence services NSA and GCHQ, for example by tapping glass fiber cables?” questioned Greens party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele, as quoted by Deutsche Welle (DW).
‘Not our laws’
“The shoulder-shrugging explanation by Washington and London that they have operated within the law is absurd. They are not our laws. We didn’t make them. We shouldn’t be subject to them,” Spiegel online columnist Jakob Augstein. “We have not asked the NSA and GCHQ to ‘protect’ us,” he said.
Gisela Pilz, a data protection expert with the parliamentary group of the liberal FDP, the junior partner in the governing coalition, agrees.
“We observe with a great deal of concern and dismay the amount of data that has been collected and stored,” she told DW.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government was caught in the crossfire of criticism for not ensuring national digital security.
It is the responsibility of the German government to see that foreign agencies no longer process the data of German citizens and companies, Augstein stressed, because “a government that cannot make that assurance is failing in one of its fundamental obligations: to protect its own citizens from the grasp of foreign powers,” he concluded. “Germans should closely observe how Angela Merkel now behaves.”
The head of the Bundestag’s intelligence supervisory committee, opposition Social Democrats deputy Thomas Oppermann, called to speed up the elaboration of data privacy legislation currently being drafted in the EU.
- ‘Brit brother’ taps Germany-US data cable (thelocal.de)
- A simple guide to GCHQ’s internet surveillance program Tempora (wired.co.uk)
- Germany blasts UK over cable trawl (realnewsnow.com)