Like The NSA And GCHQ, Germany's Foreign Intelligence Agency Uses A Legal Loophole To Spy On Its Own Citizens

from the well,-fancy-that dept

One of the striking features of the responses to Edward Snowden's leaks about the snooping being carried out by the NSA and GCHQ is the insistence that everything is, of course, quite "legal." But gradually, it has emerged that this "legality" is achieved through the use of loophole after loophole after loophole after loophole. Now it has been revealed that Germany's intelligence agency, the BND, has also been using this trick to enable it to spy on its own citizens -- something that was assumed to be off-limits for it:
The agency, known by its German acronym BND, is not usually allowed to intercept communications made by Germans or German companies, but a former BND lawyer told parliament this week that citizens working abroad for foreign companies were not protected.

The German government confirmed on Saturday that work-related calls or emails were attributed to the employer. As a result, if the employer is foreign, the BND could legally intercept them.
This latest story in the Guardian adds to the impression that widespread domestic surveillance is taking place because of a willful disregarding of the rules through the use of these loopholes. Maybe one way to start to rein in spy agencies would be to insist that they followed the spirit as well as the letter of the law -- and if they don't, to bring in even more stringent definitions of permissible activities in an attempt to close as many of these gaping loopholes as possible.

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Filed Under: bnd, loopholes, privacy, surveillance


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  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 3 Dec 2014 @ 2:49am

    What do you expect from government shills who claim German law doesn't apply since data was grabbed from satellites in space?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2014 @ 3:45am

    Given Germany's embrace of the dark side for part of the 20th century I would have hoped they would not repeat the same mistakes.

    I was wrong.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2014 @ 4:11am

    Sadly, I believe we're all well past any hope of closing all the loopholes. It's possible for domestic data to be routed outside one's own country, due to how the internet routing works. I'm sure intelligence agencies consider such domestic data fair game.

    The NSA can also have GCHQ intercept American data and vise versa. All perfectly legal, because the interception is being done by a foreign country. It's simply incidental that the foreign country happens to be a Five-Eyes partner we share data with.

    Heck, even a German user visiting TechDirt.com is enough for BND to legally spy on Germans.

    I'm still gonna have to go with Ed Snowden. Technological solutions, not outdated laws or politics, is the only true way of reining in mass spying.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2014 @ 7:35am

    "Maybe one way to start to rein in spy agencies would be to insist that they followed the spirit as well as the letter of the law"

    They would then just apply their own interpretation of "the spirit". As long as these agencies are allowed to judge themselves, and make up their own definitions and interpretations, the problem will continue.

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

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 3 Dec 2014 @ 10:12am

    We (law enforcement) wanted to commit this act, therefore it was legal.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Dec 2014 @ 12:16pm

    When laws are written to be interpreted by computers

    ... only then will we cease having creative interpretations of the law.

    (Instead, we'll just blatantly hack the law.)

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Dec 2014 @ 12:17pm

    Maybe one way to start to rein in spy agencies would be to insist that they followed the spirit as well as the letter of the law -- and if they don't, to bring in even more stringent definitions of permissible activities in an attempt to close as many of these gaping loopholes as possible.

    If they already ignore the current laws, then tightening up the text means squat, they'll just ignore the 'new' laws too. No, what's needed is stricter punishments, on the books and enforced for those found violating the spirit of the law.

    If the law says 'No spying on citizens of your own country', and they do that, a hefty bit of prison time at a minimum seems like a fitting punishment.

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

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Dec 2014 @ 1:00pm

      Re:

      The problem becomes when the spirit of the law is unclear, or there is contention between experts as to what the spirit of the law is.

      Also, agencies like the CIA are more than willing to, like large corporations, toss out a sacrificial lamb, a patsy, to be jailed for war crimes that were deemed necessary.

      Ultimately, we may just have to create our laws the way we create our sourcecode, and make it foolproof enough that a computer can interpret it, and ultimately does.

      Though a quote recently posted here applies:

      It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.
      -- James Madison saying "Keep It Simple, Stupid."

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 3 Dec 2014 @ 1:07pm

        Re: Re:

        "Ultimately, we may just have to create our laws the way we create our sourcecode, and make it foolproof enough that a computer can interpret it, and ultimately does.
        "
        *** STOP: 0x0000001E (0xC0000005, 0xF24A0000, 0x00000001, 0x00000000) KMODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED

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

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 9:35pm

    Bend over and take it like a man....

    Ah the eternal gullibility of the common people.

    It warms the cockles of so many off-shore bank accounts.

    When, I wonder, will it occur to the citizens of earth, that, since these spy agencies - regardless of nationality - have without pause and without exception, lied continuously and repeatedly, without consequence, in response to every single question concerning their activities, for decades, that they and their masters are also lying about the stated grand purpose for the whole surveillance program - terrorism?

    My guess, and the spy-guys' masters' hopes....

    Never. And I assume they will get their wish.

    Why?

    Because its just too scary to contemplate the notion that those who run the world might actually BE the very Evil that they pretend to fight, at your expense, simply so they can keep everyone afraid and begging for their protection from their make-believe bogeymen and use the wealth of the world - given willingly by the sheep - for their own pleasures.

    It is simply too difficult for good people to comprehend the lengths to which bad people will go to "get theirs".

    It has always been this way and the real bad guys depend on it remaining this way.

    Oh well. I expect that we do not have too many years left before the Next Evil Empire will shrug off its Democratic facade and show its real face to the world, so what the hell, have another beer and change the channel.

    ---

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


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