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Konrad Werner: Snowden-friendly Germany invests in mass surveillance

The German secret service this month leaked its mass surveillance plans to the press and no one was charged with treason. Netzpolitik did the same thing last year and caused a massive fuss.

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Photo by Bjs (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The general perception of things is mainly wrong. All the time. Angela Merkel has a humanitarian refugee policy, even though she’s closed Germany’s borders and made it harder to get to Germany. Germany is liberal about elections, but it denies political participation to any non-Germans.

Similarly, when the Snowden revelations broke in 2013, we were told that Germany took privacy more seriously because of something to do with the Stasi, and Merkel was outraged at having her phone hacked by the NSA.

Then, earlier this month, we found out the German government was planning to increase mass surveillance in the country, mainly to do what the NSA does before breakfast every day – decrypt encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp, thanks to a new program called “Panos”. We’re going to need several hundred million more euros every year, the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency) told the papers, so we don’t have to keep asking the NSA for info (that would raise its budget to €808 million a year). There was no outcry from the supposedly privacy-obsessed German public.

The budget plan also shows that the BND and its domestic counterpart the Verfassungsschutz plan to buy WhatsApp hacks from “external sources” – this would mean tax money would be used to buy from the “darknet”, that shady anonymous business zone that we were told is mainly for criminals. So if the BND buys a hack into whatever messaging app you prefer, that hacker could easily sell that info on to anyone in the world they like.

PS: We know this because the Süddeutsche Zeitung and two public broadcasters – NDR and WDR – published a leaked budget plan last week. Weirdly, this hasn’t caused a massive scandal and phoney debate about “new journalism” like last year, when the blog website Netzpolitik.org got charged with “treason” for doing EXACTLY SAME THING. “Treason” apparently doesn’t apply to deliberate leaks.