Germany's Leading Digital Rights Blog Netzpolitik.org Accused Of 'Treason' After Leaking Bulk Surveillance Plans

from the still-enough-disk-space dept

Netzpolitik.org is arguably the most influential German blog in the realm of digital rights. It played a key role in marshalling protests against ACTA three years ago. You'd think the German government would be proud of it as an example of local digital innovation, but instead, it seems to regard it as some kind of traitor:

The president of the German domestic secret service has filed criminal charges with the public prosecutor because of two of our articles. The accusation: leaking state secrets.
Those two articles concerned a leak about extending bulk surveillance of online users (original in German), and plans to create a new department of the German secret service to extend its Internet surveillance capabilities (in English.) As Netzpolitik's founder and Editor-in-chief, Markus Beckedahl, explains, he decided to publish this information because it showed that despite Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA surveillance, the German government still thinks the best way of spending taxpayers' money is by spying on them. He adds:
Naturally, we uploaded the original documents relating to our article because there was still enough disk space and because it is part of our philosophy to enable our readers to inform themselves using the original source. Thus, they can scrutinise us and our reporting.

Apparently, this suffices for a twice charge for treason because it seems to be confidential when the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution expands the Internet’s surveillance and keeps social networks under surveillance using the dragnet principle. This affects everybody, e.g. we could be under surveillance because we have sign up for the same Facebook event as a potential terrorist. But a public debate thereon is undesired.
This is not the first time that the German government has given Netzpolitik.org a hard time:
Already in the autumn of 2014, the German Federal Chancellery (German: Bundeskanzleramt, translator’s note) has threatened us with a charge which was also announced but later on abandoned.
Like the present case, that seems a clear attempt to intimidate reporting. As Beckedahl points out, even though the new hunt for whistleblowers is not aimed directly at the blog and its journalists, they are likely to be caught up in any investigation, probably just to act as a warning:
It is very rare that the German Federal Public Prosecutor investigates against journalistic sources. We could not find any case since 2005. Now we shall experience the full rigour of the constitutional state. The charge is not directed straight to our reporting but we are nevertheless affected. We are mentioned and have to expect to be under surveillance and possibly to be subject to a house search.
What makes this kind of bullying doubly outrageous is that there is a rather bigger story regarding the press in Germany: the fact that both the NSA and CIA spied on the news magazine Der Spiegel. And yet rather than investigate that fact, or that other newspapers seem to have been victims too, the German government is more concerned about intimidating journalists that dare to report on its own plans to spy on millions of its citizens.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 10:48am

    Where have we seen that again? Oh right, Stasi was a goddamn GERMAN agency dedicated at spying, smearing and identifying people the Nazi regime didn't like. Haven't you learned with history, Germany????

    On a side note, Godwin is on a spree these days, eh?

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

    • identicon
      Michael, 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:26am

      Re:

      The copyright holders on German history will not allow anyone to read about it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 12:37pm

      Re:

      "Where have we seen that again? Oh right, Stasi was a goddamn GERMAN agency dedicated at spying, smearing and identifying people the Nazi regime didn't like. Haven't you learned with history, Germany????"

      Wait a moment! The Stasi was founded after the Nazi regime and was an East-Germany aka Russian occupied territory thing! Which I assume means in todays terms "rotten to its core",

      Well....Ok, the german head-of-state Merkel was employed by the (Stasi) bureau and got her doctor there*** that does not mean that Germany follows a Stasi... Man, it's hard to argue when the facts are against you. Maybe change "Germany" to "german politicians"? Everything left of the CDU aka Merkel (I guess the NPD, National Party aka Nazi party included) is against that.

      (John Oliver voice)
      How dare you! How dare you to compare the Stasi to the current survailance? The Stasi was an infant compared to what is possible nowadays!

      https://apps.opendatacity.de/stasi-vs-nsa/english.html
      (scroll it, scroll it hard!)

      Yeah that's right! The Stasi had loved to have the NSA storage.

      *** you might find an english version of the Volker Pispers program.

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

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 1:50pm

        Re: Re:

        "Where have we seen that again? Oh right, Stasi was a goddamn GERMAN agency dedicated at spying, smearing and identifying people the Nazi regime didn't like. Haven't you learned with history, Germany????"

        Wait a moment! The Stasi was founded after the Nazi regime and was an East-Germany aka Russian occupied territory thing!

        Details, details. :-)

        Certainly you're correct, but when you think about it, there wasn't a lot of difference between the Nazis and the East German communist regime. The Nazis were possibly more effective for a time (Hollerith carding the population in '33!), but in the end they both collapsed pretty spectacularly leaving plenty of innocents' bodies in their wake.

        Auschwitz, or hanging from barbed wire after being shot trying to get over the Berlin wall? Is there a third option please? The Soviets sure made the 20th Century entertaining, if you like horror stories, much like the '30s and '40s Nazis did.

        I think it's just peachy that Germans learned so well from the East German Stasi that they're now known to be the front line in the war against surveillance statism. Danke! What the heck is wrong with Angela Merkel allying with the NSA?!? Having grown up in East Germany, she should know this is insanity. Spiegel has written great stuff on this, and they're rightfully incensed.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 2:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Woah...slow down!

          To your first question, the difference between the Nazis and the Russians... to put it in US terms, the first killed everyone but 250k "indians", the later made a wall to mexico.

          To Auschwitz or hanging to from the barbed wire... in US terms... either put asians into concentration camps or kill off some mexicans.

          About Merkel, you can't really blame her even though she might kiss the US lips from inside the rectum because international laws passed during the 50s to 70s prevent any German gov from disclosing information related to another country (aka NSA). The same is true to the nuclear bombs stationed in Germany or the US relay station (Rammstein) that is needed for the killings of innocent civilians in the mid east. But nonetheless she did made her doctor while working for the Stasi politbureau.

          And whatever you read from spiegel should be taken with a grain of salt (or however the saying goes). They are part of the (iirc) same company as boulevard magazing Bild and the according to Member of European Parliament Martin Sonneborn "2nd most known satire magazin in Germany".

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

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 14 Jul 2015 @ 4:02am

        Re: Re:

        Hmmmm, true enough, I confused the ministries it seems. But if you need to bash the US (more than it's being bashed here in other articles) in an article which focuses on Germany then feel free to do it. And the point I rised, I think, still stands.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:30pm

      Re:

      "Haven't you learned with history, Germany????"

      If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

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

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 14 Jul 2015 @ 2:52am

      Re:

      No, the Stasi (STAatsSIcherheit, State Security) was dedicated on spying smearing and identifying people the DDR regime didn't like.

      You've mixed it up with the Gestapo (GEheime STAatsPOlizei, Secret State Police), which was dedicated at spying, smearing and identifying people the Nazi regime didn't like.

      Oh, and both not only did this, they also abducted and murdered people (with the Gestapo murdering tens of thousands of people).

      And no, obviously the whole world didn't learn history.

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

    • identicon
      Hallo, 14 Jul 2015 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      Stasi was the Agency in eastern Germany (the one with the Socialists behind "the Wall") after WW2.
      The Nazis had the "GeStaPo". Same diff; just fyi ;)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:03am

    This just proves that Merkel was pretending to be upset about NSA's spying, when in fact she and her government were increasingly more upset about German media continuing to talk about it.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 2:15pm

      Re:

      Oh I'm sure she was honestly upset to find out that her communications were being listened to/read, but a little reminder to shut up from the USG seems to have done wonders.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:23am

    it seems that every country is basically doing the same things, ie, spying on it's own citizens, using the same excuse of 'protection from terrorism. when it's so many doing the same thing, even down to the 'charging people with treason' for trying to expose the underhanded lengths their own governments will go to, not to protect against terrorism, but to know exactly what everyone is doing every second of the time, doesn't it mean something? is there not a pattern here? are not the same freedom and privacy at stake and being removed by the governments of these countries? is it not a conspiracy against the people? it sure as hell would be if the people were doing something like this, in their own countries, let alone globally! there is far more to this than meets the eye and it looks to me like a global stopping of everyone being able to go where they want, think and say what they want, read and write what they want and even buy what they want. it seems like a global conspiracy to ensure the wealthy stay in charge and the people are put, more or less, into slavery!

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

    • identicon
      Michael, 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:28am

      Re:

      but to know exactly what everyone is doing every second of the time

      That's crazy paranoia. It's not even possible to know what everyone is doing all of the time. They are simply trying to log what everyone is doing all of the time so when they discover they do not like what someone is doing, they will have a mountain of things to use against them.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 12:03pm

        Re: Re:

        ...It's not even possible to know what everyone is doing all of the time...

        I've a friend who got a new cel phone and put Facebook on it, but forgot to check the default settings. Soon afterwards a relative suffered a heart attack and they had to go to the hospital. After getting them squared away and returning home upon checking the phone they found Facebook had pinged all their friends that they were at the hospital, and thus all of them were asking if everything was OK.

        The key thing here is that while Facebook can tell where you are - if you allow it - Facebook cannot tell why you are where you are or what you are doing there. Can anything else do better? AFAIK no.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 12:59pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "The key thing here is that while Facebook can tell where you are - if you allow it - Facebook cannot tell why you are where you are or what you are doing there."

          This is not entirely true. Once you've compiled a history of a person's daily travels, you can determine with reasonable accuracy why they have gone to particular places and what they're doing there.

          This is the "gift" of Big Data. Assemble enough data points that are innocuous individually and you have can do most of what you would use cameras and wiretaps for.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 1:24pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "This is not entirely true. Once you've compiled a history of a person's daily travels, you can determine with reasonable accuracy why they have gone to particular places and what they're doing there"

            I remember a study made by a university which can predict a persons location to an accuracy of 95% after following the person for 1 mounth. Shame I can't find the study related to it.

            But if you can predict someones locations with a 95% accuracy after one month, imagine what you could do after following them for all the time.

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

          • icon
            tqk (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 2:16pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            This is the "gift" of Big Data. Assemble enough data points that are innocuous individually and you have can do most of what you would use cameras and wiretaps for.

            That's just one of the gifts of Big Data. See the earlier story about how you need know their data storage systems to know how and for what to demand for them to cough up relevant data to comply with a FOIA request. Given a big enough haystack, they can get away with not complying with the law.

            Whose gov'ts are these again? They insist they're ours, but reality says otherwise.

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

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:31am

    The German Federal Public Prosecutor probably needs a small target to bully around and rebuild his self-esteem after he had to shutter his investigation of the NSA when Mr Range realized he was too small and insignificant to take on the big boys.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 12:50pm

      Re:

      It's not that he is too small but
      1. he has to follow the government. Which means that if the gov doesn't want to investigate he simply isn't allowed to. Which of course means that the probably highest investigating authority in Germany has a limb... can't do it's job.

      2. He can't investigate even if he wanted to because everything that might be against the NSA is owned by the NSA which means the copyright belongs to the NSA which ofc means it is not useable. Need prove?

      https://twitter.com/gutjahr/status/620546779168182272/photo/1

      "A disclosure if the data belonging to your person especially the named phone numbers and e-mail addresses are amoung the selectors known to the Federal Chancellery isn't possible by the BND [german NSA]. It is about material that belongs to the NSA. The BND isn't allowed to freely distribute that information"

      Yes, the BND uses these selectors to filter German internet traffic, the BND sends that traffic to the NSA but the German pulbic isn't allowed to know those selectors because they belong to the NSA.

      Conclusion: the BRD (Germany) is part of the USA.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:40am

    remenant

    German domestic secret service

    i know germans hate it but damn if that does not sound nazi.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 1:27pm

      Re: remenant

      Nah, Nazi's would cry for world domination. According to the pentagon military report 2015 that is the US agenda. read:

      "Unless the USA conquered every country there will be no safety for the USA"

      To me this sounds pretty Nazi'ish.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:50am

    Accusations of treason by the government are becoming the new way to find true patriots.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 1:21pm

    Onething

    Last I read the reporter for netzpolitik.org had an escort that made sure s/he behaved correctly. So a police person stood behind the reporter during the debate and made sure that everything was alright. No voice recording, only hand written testemony. Sure that a voice counts more in courts thant a written note but hey... who is counting? Right?

    Nice that the police checks if the press is writing the correct things (which are often altered on the official note read netzpolitik.org for more) because they might write all kind of weird stuff if noone would check them. Well that might only count for views outside the approved point of view. In that fashion and to show my loyalty to the german republic I just want to say:

    Let those africans drown! Why safe them and let them leech off us if they can't build a boat that is floating? Better not help and let them drown then call it an accident. Or maybe shoot at them with our Navy but they do tend to miss so drowning it is.
    We defend ourselves 1500 miles from our boarder because.. BECAUSE it is a defencive war...so Germany apparantly expands to Afghanistan.. who knew? ( first part said by German defence minister)
    Let the US store 800 nukes here although they are classified as non safe (the US is "repairing them" that does not mean we can move backwards from our masters rectum!
    Give those war refugees shelter? HA! HaHa! Let them die in subhuman standards (quote WHO)!
    A guy with an empyty tank of gasoline and a gun infront of a synagogue surely isn't rightwing! Just let those guys walk.
    Someone speaking against the Gov? Darn those left wing terrorists! (Stuttgart 21, S21, Rambo, wild Tonfa. Vid of a police guy hitting people randomly with a police stick. 3 months later a report was made public that those police sticks aren't durable enought for the police aka the police hits too hard and often for what the sticks were designed for)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 1:55pm

    Germany wants to spy on its citizens. Is it possible Merkel's concerns about NSA spying had nothing to do with German citizens and everything to do with the German government?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 2:15pm

      Re:

      It might have but thank the german gov a new bill will probalby be passed in fall that enables the german gov to spy on every German because of terrorists. To hell that it never worked based on every study ever made in countries that had this system!

      There are after all over 80 million terrorists in Germany so you better keep an eye on every single one of them!

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

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 14 Jul 2015 @ 2:59am

      Re:

      Of course.

      Because the problem is, that the one that really should be investigated for treason is the BND (germanys secret service), which spied for the NSA.

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

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 3:04pm

    Greece is lazy ignore us tapping your phones and computers.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2015 @ 10:28am

    Just goes to prove that Merkel and other officials that were 'outraged' over the US spying on them were only outraged that they don't have their mass spying systems up to par...

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


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