Germany's Latest Half-Hearted Response To Snowden's Revelations: Asking Officially For The Names Of All Spies Working At Foreign Embassies

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Germany has had perhaps the hardest time coming to terms with Edward Snowden’s revelations of massive spying by the US and its Five Eyes allies. On the one hand, Germans are acutely sensitive to surveillance because of their country’s recent history, giving rise to some of the strongest public reactions against US spying amongst any nation. On the other hand, the German government has doubtless benefitted from information gathered by the US, and is therefore reluctant to complain too much about the NSA’s activities.

This has led to a curious series of feeble protestations and largely symbolic actions. Now the German government has come up with another weird idea: asking every foreign country to provide a list of their spies that are operating from embassies within Germany:

German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the German Foreign Office has been systematically contacting consular authorities from every foreign nation located in Germany. In each case, the foreign consular representatives have been issued formal requests to release “through official diplomatic channels” an exhaustive list of names of their intelligence operatives operating in Germany under diplomatic cover.

Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether a country has fully complied with that request, since by definition the spies are currently secret. Well, most of them are; as the post on quoted above points out:

A small number of these intelligence officers voluntarily make their presence known to the corresponding intelligence agency of their host country, and are thus officially declared and accredited with the government of the host nation. They typically act as points-of-contact between the embassy and the intelligence agency of the host nation on issues of common concern requiring cross-country collaboration or coordination. But the vast majority of intelligence personnel stationed at a foreign embassy or consulate operate without the official knowledge or consent of the host country. Governments generally accept this as a tacit rule in international intelligence work, which is why Berlin’s move is seen as highly unusual.

I imagine many countries will simply add a few more names to the list of intelligence officers that they officially acknowledge as a token measure of compliance, and will then go back to spying with the rest (or just bring in some new ones that they don’t declare.) All-in-all, this seems yet another move designed to prove to German citizens that their government is “taking things seriously”, and “doing something”, while at the same time ensuring that the “something” is largely ineffectual and doesn’t harm their relationship with the US.

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Comments on “Germany's Latest Half-Hearted Response To Snowden's Revelations: Asking Officially For The Names Of All Spies Working At Foreign Embassies”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

And our breaking story of the hour...

“In related news, the German police have unveiled a new crime fighting program, titled ‘Pretty please?’, where they will be asking any criminals to go to the nearest station and turn themselves in, as well as provide police with detailed information related to any crimes they may have committed.

When asked for comment, an anonymous officer responded with both high hopes, and regret, as while they are sure that the new program will be highly effective at catching criminals, they can’t help but berate themselves for taking so long to come up with the program.

‘It’s obvious when you put your mind to it,’ the officer stated, ‘if people are doing something in secret, something that, for whatever reason they want to keep to themselves, the best way to get them to admit it is to ask them politely to do so.’

When asked what the police plan to do if criminals decide not to turn themselves in, the officer dismissed such worries as unrealistic, noting that doing so would be ‘Extremely rude’.”

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