The German Inquiry on Mass Surveillance

The German parliament unanimously decided to have an inquiry on mass surveillance in March 2014. The elections were in September 2013, two months after the first Snowden revelations. (At a later point the huge conservative/social democrat govt. majority in parliament probably wouldn’t have decided in favor or such an investigation, is my personal guess.)

What’s the point of the Inquiry? There is a formal document (pdf) that defines its task which can be found on the website of the inquiry. Main topics of the investigation are mass surveillance by the Five Eyes in Germany and/or in cooperation with Germany, on the population of Germany and on government and its institutions. Germany’s cooperation in the US drone war either through intelligence or the military base in Ramstein on German soil are a specific aspect of the Inquiry. The first major conflict was whether Edward Snowden should be called to testify in the inquiry. Until today the German government evades necessary decisions about the possibility for him to come to Germany.

Since September of last year I’m senior advisor for the Left party in Inquiry. My talk about the first year at the CCC Camp in August:

I also did a slightly different talk about the inquiry at the camp in German which was translated into English and dubbed. In this talk I went more into detail for some legal aspects and presumed some general knowledge of German parliamentary procedures:

After the since talks a group of people who attended set up an English language website to inform about the inquiry since there is very little reporting outside of Germany. You can find the website at, its Twitter account @GermanInq and via the hashtag #GermanInq . Let them know if you have news clips or other English language material that should be added.

Also if you have more questions about the Inquiry feel free to ask me here or via Twitter, my English language account is @Anne_Roth.

German police monitors Skype, GoogleMail and Facebook chat

The German government a while ago answered questions about expenditures by the federal ministry of home affairs for private service providers – hardly noticed by the English speaking world. The parlamentary enquiry („Minor interpellation“) no. 17/10077 by Jan Korte, MP of The Left party, has now been translated into English.

Download the document in English (pdf) or German (pdf).

The answers were far more detailed than one would expect.

There’s 43 pages (this includes questions), 20 of which are tables that list who was contracted, how much money was paid, what for and how each paid item was used. Even though 12 out of 30 answers were defined as classified information – e.g. questions regarding Germany’s domestic and foreign intelligence services or the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) –  there’s still some interesting news to be found.

The German ministry for home affairs and thus the German police clearly state that they are monitoring Skype, Google Mail, MSN Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Facebook chat if deemed necessary. Money is spent on trojan viruses and we can be quite certain which company produces the IMSI catchers used by German police. We know how much money was spent by the Federal Police on border control biometrics, on passenger information systems and telecommunications surveillance. Digitask, a company whose reputation was clearly damaged after its trojan virus was found and analysed by the Chaos Computer Club in 2011, seems to still be a regular contractor of German authorities. Altogether more than a billion Euro was spent on private services by German police and other public authorities in the realm of the ministry of home affairs in the years 2002 – 2012.

The translation into English, commissioned by MP Korte, leaves out the 20 pages that contain tables with data who was paid how much for what exactly. If your preferred translation website can’t be of help, let me know and I’ll do my best. I noticed one mistake in the translation of question no. 10: „Federal Agency for the Protection of the Environment (BfV)“ should instead be the domestic secret service „Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz BfV“.



Picture: Toban Black, Flickr, CC licence