Germany's Spy Agency Walks Away From Three-Year Investigation With Expanded Spy Powers

from the when-getting-to-the-bottom-of-something-means-lightly-scratching-the-surface dept

Netzpolitik — once on the receiving end of treason charges for reporting on leaked documents — is marking the end of the so-called “inquiry” into the BND-NSA partnership with a post discussing the inquiry’s multiple failures. The German government’s investigation into Five Eyes spy efforts was a direct result of leaked Snowden documents, which showed the NSA had spied on the German chancellor.

It failed to uncover much about that particular allegation. By the time this part of the investigation had been dropped, President Obama had already apologized for the NSA doing perfectly normal NSA-type stuff: spying on foreign officials. The committee turned to a broader discussion of surveillance best practices, including the propriety of spying on friends and neighbors. In doing so, it uncovered plenty of illicit and ill-advised spying by its NSA equivalent, BND.

Netzpolitik has a full list of BND’s questionable surveillance targets, including friendly foreign officials, journalists, EU officials, the UN, human aid organizations, banks, rating agencies, and a number of American companies. (Do unto others, etc.)

But when it came to actually examining BND’s tactics and programs, the committee opted to dwell on legal minutia.

Quite some time was spent on the question of when which sub-division manager in BND knew of which selector and to whom he reported it or why he didn’t and whether someone was present at a meeting in the chancellery on 24th of October 2013 or not or was it the 28th… No wonder sometimes only a dozen people witnessed the public hearings until late at night.

It’s a great way to talk around the issues, rather than addressing them. Netzpolitik felt the pain personally, as its reporters attended the public hearings and transcribed all 5.6 million characters of undisturbed bushes idly observing nearby beatings.

This was not entirely the tribunal’s fault, however. As soon as it became apparent surveillance partnerships were going to be discussed, BND’s Five Eyes partners began issuing ultimatums.

The committee was only allowed to investigate a few discontinued and outdated joint operations between the German spy agency BND and the Five Eyes: Eikonal in Frankfurt and Glotaic. But the name “Glotaic” could not even be spoken, because it includes the partner’s name “CIA”. Just like operation “Monkeyshoulder”, which was planned with British GCHQ. This could not be mentioned at all, as the UK threatened to end any spy cooperation. The committee would be responsible for terrorist attacks, they said.

The committee is now in the process of writing a report that few will see, much less read. A public version will likely be presented, short on specifics and long on assertions of lawful authority and rigorous oversight. It’s basically up to leakers to provide the public with the reality of the situation. And much of what the committee managed to uncover has been glossed over… or codified.

The consequences to those revelations amount to the next scandal. Instead of adjusting the spying to the law, the laws are adjusted to the spying. One year before the end of the committee, the grand coalition passed a reform of the BND law. With this change, everything that the BND is doing, is legalized – and even expanded.

The committee found that the NSA spies on its “friends” just as often as BND does. The examination of 14 million shared intercepts turned up 40,000 “friendlies.” Notably, the committee was not allowed to review these intercepts. It was just supposed to take the single reviewer’s word on the percentage of “friendly” NSA targets.

Taking a look at its own intercepts, BND found 3,300 “participants” linked to 15,000 “selectors” in its “friendlies” file. This means German officials like Merkel will find it difficult to feign anger at the NSA’s friendly spy targets.

Not that any of this matters, at least not in the short run. As Netzpolitik points out, while the committee was busy discussing the few things it could discuss, the German parliament was expanding BND’s legal authorities.

German citizens — along with everyone the government spies on — can rest assured nothing has changed. It’s only gotten worse. The final report may provide more examples of BND’s misconduct, but the agency has already been rewarded for its misbehavior by the same officials charged with holding the agency accountable for its abuses.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Germany's Spy Agency Walks Away From Three-Year Investigation With Expanded Spy Powers”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Report this ad??|??Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
12:25 Australian Privacy Commissioner Says 7-Eleven Broke Privacy Laws By Scanning Customers' Faces At Survey Kiosks (6)
10:50 Missouri Governor Doubles Down On 'View Source' Hacking Claim; PAC Now Fundraising Over This Bizarrely Stupid Claim (45)
10:45 Daily Deal: The All-in-One Microsoft, Cybersecurity, And Python Exam Prep Training Bundle (0)
09:43 Want To Understand Why U.S. Broadband Sucks? Look At Frontier Communications In Wisconsin, West Virginia (8)
05:36 Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group (71)
19:57 Le Tigre Sues Barry Mann To Stop Copyright Threats Over Song, Lights Barry Mann On Fire As Well (21)
16:07 Court Says City Of Baltimore's 'Heckler's Veto' Of An Anti-Catholic Rally Violates The First Amendment (15)
13:37 Two Years Later, Judge Finally Realizes That A CDN Provider Is Not Liable For Copyright Infringement On Websites (21)
12:19 Chicago Court Gets Its Prior Restraint On, Tells Police Union Head To STFU About City's Vaccine Mandate (158)
10:55 Verizon 'Visible' Wireless Accounts Hacked, Exploited To Buy New iPhones (8)
10:50 Daily Deal: The MacOS 11 Course (0)
07:55 Suing Social Media Sites Over Acts Of Terrorism Continues To Be A Losing Bet, As 11th Circuit Dumps Another Flawed Lawsuit (11)
02:51 Trump Announces His Own Social Network, 'Truth Social,' Which Says It Can Kick Off Users For Any Reason (And Already Is) (100)
19:51 Facebook AI Moderation Continues To Suck Because Moderation At Scale Is Impossible (26)
16:12 Content Moderation Case Studies: Snapchat Disables GIPHY Integration After Racist 'Sticker' Is Discovered (2018) (11)
13:54 Arlo Makes Live Customer Service A Luxury Option (8)
12:05 Delta Proudly Announces Its Participation In The DHS's Expanded Biometric Collection Program (5)
11:03 LinkedIn (Mostly) Exits China, Citing Escalating Demands For Censorship (14)
10:57 Daily Deal: The Python, Git, And YAML Bundle (0)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
06:41 Report: Client-Side Scanning Is An Insecure Nightmare Just Waiting To Be Exploited By Governments (35)
20:38 MLB In Talks To Offer Streaming For All Teams' Home Games In-Market Even Without A Cable Subscription (10)
15:55 Appeals Court Says Couple's Lawsuit Over Bogus Vehicle Forfeiture Can Continue (15)
13:30 Techdirt Podcast Episode 301: Scarcity, Abundance & NFTs (0)
12:03 Hollywood Is Betting On Filtering Mandates, But Working Copyright Algorithms Simply Don't Exist (66)
10:45 Introducing The Techdirt Insider Discord (4)
10:40 Daily Deal: The Dynamic 2021 DevOps Training Bundle (0)
09:29 Criminalizing Teens' Google Searches Is Just How The UK's Anti-Cybercrime Programs Roll (19)
06:29 Canon Sued For Disabling Printer Scanners When Devices Run Out Of Ink (41)
20:51 Copyright Law Discriminating Against The Blind Finally Struck Down By Court In South Africa (7)
More arrow