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 Intelnews.org 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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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 4:08am

    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'."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 4:35am

    why not give disinformation...

    and provide names of German people these governments want removed from offices/jailed.

    Could Germany please say that Eric Holder is a German spy as well as James Risen confidential source?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 5:07am

    This is not as weird as you may believe. As far I know, Canada usually informs its host nation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 5:08am

    Any nation that fails to put Angela Merkel as the first name on the list really doesn't deserve to run itself anymore.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    beech, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 5:25am

    Re: And our breaking story of the hour...

    You forgot the part where the criminals have to pinky swear to never be bad again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    What, Me worry?, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 5:33am

    Spies usually operate in a clandestine mode.
    I learned this from Mad magazine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 6:09am

    Re: why not give disinformation...

    They're asking for names of "legal" officers (that is, the only spies they can't prosecute), not agents or illegal officers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 6:59am

    Re: Re: And our breaking story of the hour...

    Or say "Cross your heart and hope to die"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Prashanth (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 7:26am

    Like in elementary school

    "I'm going to tell your mom!"
    Sure that worked in elementary school, but that would be a laughable threat for essentially any adult.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), Aug 13th, 2014 @ 7:58am

    On the other hand, the German government has doubtless benefitted from information gathered by the US

    Really? I'd rather say all statements pro surveillance we're getting here are the same old manufactured wins like you keep hearing over there all the time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2014 @ 4:47pm

    Rule #1 of being a spy. Don't tell people you're a spy!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Aug 14th, 2014 @ 3:19am

    Sure, we'll gladly provide a list of people we purposely put in your country to gather information without your knowledge and to our advantage. - The Moronic Nation

    This should be greeted with a huge 'doh'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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