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LQD: The German surveillance state

by dvx Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 08:08:21 AM EST

Well, the debate is over, dissent is no longer allowed, and the parliamentary members of the grand coalition have been compelled to do their duty.

Opposition kündigt Widerstand an: Bundestag beschließt BKA-Gesetz - Inland - Politik - FAZ.NETOpposition vows to resist: Bundestag enacts new Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) law
13. November 2008 Nach jahrelangem Streit hat der Bundestag das Gesetz zur Erweiterung der Befugnisse des Bundeskriminalamts (BKA) gegen den Widerstand der Opposition verabschiedet. 375 Abgeordnete stimmten am Mittwoch für das Gesetz, 168 dagegen, sechs enthielten sich. Der Gesetzentwurf, den die große Koalition eingebracht hat, überträgt dem BKA Kompetenzen zur Terrorabwehr und ermöglicht unter anderem die Videoüberwachung von Wohnungen und die Online-Durchsuchung privater Computer. Die Grünen kündigten Klage vor dem Bundesverfassungsgericht an.13 November 2008 After years of dispute, the German Bundestag passed the new law to expand the authority of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in the face of the oppposition. 375 representatives voted for the bill on Wednesday, 168 against and six abstained. The bill introduced by the grand coalition grants the BKA authority to combat terror and among other things permits video surveillance of private homes and online searches of private computers. The Greens announced that they would bring an action before the Federal Constitutional Court.

Promoted with slight edit by DoDo


Bundesinnenminister Schäuble (CDU) setzte sich im Bundestag noch einmal mit Nachdruck für das Gesetz ein, das nach langem Ringen der Koalitionspartner CDU/CSU und SPD zustande gekommen war. Der SPD-Politiker Hofmann lobte es als ,,das modernste und rechtstaatlich anspruchsvollste Gesetz in Europa". Die Opposition warnte hingegen vor einem tiefgreifenden Eingriff in das bestehende Rechtssystem. ,,Das BKA bekommt als Polizeibehörde geheimdienstliche Methoden", sagte der FDP-Innenpolitiker Stadler. Auch einzelne Abgeordnete der SPD stimmten - hauptsächlich wegen der Online-Durchsuchung - gegen das Gesetz.In the Bundestag debate, Interior Minister Schäuble (CDU) once more strenuously advocated the bill, which was arrived at only after lengthly discussions between coalition partners CDU/CSU and SPD. SPD member Hofmann praised it as "the most modern and respectful of due process of [any] law [of its kind] in Europe". But the opposition warned of major breaks with the existing legal system. "The BKA as a police agency is being equipped with the methods of intelligence services," said FDP internal affairs speaker Stadler. Individual SPD members also voted against the act, primarily on account of the online searches.
Schäuble sagte, die Grundrechte des freiheitlichen Rechtsstaates bedürften des Schutzes. Die insbesondere von den Grünen geäußerten Vorwürfe seien eine Beleidigung für die Polizei. Nichts werde den Ländern weggenommen, sondern das BKA bekomme Befugnisse hinzu. Es sei nicht hinzunehmen, ,,unseren freiheitlichen Verfassungsstaat so zu diffamieren, dass junge Leute denken, es handle sich um so was wie die Stasi", sagte Schäuble.Schäuble said that the basic rights of a freedom-oriented nation founded on due process required this protection. He characterized the accusations of the Greens in particular as libel against the police. He added that no powers of the states would be usurped, rather the BKA would receive further powers. He continued, "It is unacceptable that our freedom-oriented constitutional state is defamed in such a manner that young people believe it is akin to the Stasi," said Schäuble.

Poor baby, and so sensitive too. That last remark would seem to indicate that this viral graphic has struck home:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket - get it here!

So the last line of defense will be the Federal Constitutional Court. Fortunately, they tend to take their job seriously, as in (to name just one example) this case in 2005:

German court rules against state's wiretap law - International Herald Tribune

BERLIN: Germany's highest court has struck down a state law permitting wiretapping that supporters said would have let the police maintain closer surveillance of potential terrorists and other dangerous criminals.

The German Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday against a state law in Lower Saxony that permitted wiretapping even when there was no concrete evidence that a crime was being planned, calling it an unconstitutional infringement of civil liberties.

"The loss of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms must not be disproportionate to the aims served by the limitation of basic rights," the court's judgment said.

This isn't over yet.

Display:
Oh boy, this is getting more and more interesting:

Online-Durchsuchung: FDP stemmt sich gegen BKA-Gesetz im Bundesrat - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten - PolitikOnline searches: FDP will oppose BKA law in the Bundesrat

Widerstand im Bundesrat: Bayern wird voraussichtlich nicht für das vom Parlament verabschiedete BKA-Gesetz stimmen. Die FDP im Freistaat stellt sich strikt gegen das Ausspähen von Computern, die Überwachung von Wohnungen mit Kameras und Mikrofonen sowie die Rasterfahndung.

Resistance in the Bundesrat (council of the states): Bavaria will likely not vote for the BKA law passed by parliament. The Bavarian FDP is strictly opposed to spying on computers, video and audio surveillance of homes and computer dragnets.
Passau - Bei der Entscheidung über das umstrittene BKA-Gesetz im Bundesrat kann die Bundesregierung wohl nicht mit den Stimmen Bayerns rechnen. Die bayerische FDP-Chefin Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger kündigte in der "Passauer Neuen Presse" an, ihre Partei werde sich einer Zustimmung der bayerischen Regierungskoalition widersetzen. "Aus unserer Sicht kann Bayern dem auf gar keinen Fall zustimmen. Darüber wird in der Koalition zu reden sein", wurde Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger zitiert.Passau - Regarding the decision on the controversial BKA law in the Bundesrat, the federal government cannot reckon with Bavaria's vote. Bavarian FDP head Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the newspaper "Passauer Neuen Presse" that her party would oppose approval of the law by Bavaria's governing coalition. "From our perspective, Bavaria cannot possibly vote for this law. This will have to be talked about in the coalition," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was quoted as saying.

The hard-case Bavarians being compelled to vote against a more repressive police apparatus is not without its irony.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 05:02:35 AM EST
Beckstein is turning in his political grave...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 06:04:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy...

:-)))

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 06:08:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 06:15:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He characterized the accusations of the Greens in particular as libel against the police.

Libel! Citizens can be put under general suspicion, but policemen, no! And he can follow up this police state mentality with a denial of Stasi comparisons...

It is unacceptable that our freedom-oriented constitutional state is defamed

Again, what does this royal outrage mean? If he won't accept it, does that mean that bloggers will be locked up?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 06:12:48 AM EST
If Schäuble had his way, we'd be under rigorous supervision.

I know they say that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, but after watching the global neocons I'm starting to think it's indignation.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 06:28:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but didn't the whole Nazi thing 70 years ago teach anybody anything over in Germany?  Or are we seeing something totally different?  Is it just short memory?

Forgive me.  This whole Obama thing is going to my head.  I'm having visions of DEMOCRACY for the US.  Very intoxicating stuff.

Hey afew!  Just cause I'm away for a week doesn't give you the right to stop thinking.  You know what I'm talking about.  :)

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 08:39:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fortunately the judiciary gets it: the Constitutional Court has a strong record of curtailing draconian legislation or throwing it out altogether.

Schäuble himself belongs to that school of politicians that tries to use every excuse to extend the powers of the state to infringe on individual freedoms.

And memory is a funny thing... A general awareness of who the Nazis were and what they actually did didn't begin to become pervasive in the public mind until the mid-60s, when the next generation came of age. You can read this fact as one of the subtexts of much public unrest in Germany in the 60s and 70s.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 09:03:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I worked for a telecoms company in Germany. And the phone-tapping and internet-tapping facilities we had to put in place were quite... well... disturbing. And this was around 2000-2001.

As I understood it, at that time, the procedure for getting warrants to use the equipment was fairly strict. I'm not one to instinctively go for "slippery slope" arguments, but I think you can at least see that the existence of the technical facilities normalised the procedure in the minds of some politicians.

Schäuble and the Stasi epithet: I like the fact that he's becoming sensitive about it. Maybe if it is pushed more in his face he might even actually start thinking about why he's being described so...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 09:16:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
dvx:
A general awareness of who the Nazis were and what they actually did didn't begin to become pervasive in the public mind until the mid-60s, when the next generation came of age. You can read this fact as one of the subtexts of much public unrest in Germany in the 60s and 70s.

And the leaders of that generation are now old, in power and wants control...

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 12:03:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 but didn't the whole Nazi thing 70 years ago teach anybody anything over in Germany?  
 

It didn't teach anybody anything over here.  Why should Germany be any different?  

Forgive me.  This whole Obama thing is going to my head.  I'm having visions of DEMOCRACY for the US.  Very intoxicating stuff.
 

Very.  Nothing like it!  

But the hangover is going to be a MONSTER!  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 10:45:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Talk about reality being beyond satire...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 08:49:34 AM EST
I wrote an essay some time ago about how the use of secret police to combat foreign threats (or "terrorists" in the modern version) quickly morphs into spying on political opponents.

I used the example of Russia from a time period that removed it from current political issues.

Authoritarians tend to be amoral, aggressive and egomaniacal, they thus tend to rise to positions of power in both government and industry. The less authoritarian often underestimate the lengths that these people will go to, and by the time they wake up they have lost their civil liberties.

We have seen this played on with the GWOT in the US and even in Australia(!) recently. So it is not surprising to see the same sort of dynamic re-emerging in Russia and Germany. Both countries still have a residual group who feel that the best days were in the past when strong leaders defended national pride.

Here's my cautionary essay:
Surveillance vs Civil Liberties

Depending upon courts to defend civil liberties is a risky course of action. Judges can be intimidated quite easily. If you want to defend civil liberties you need to push for strong democratic institutions.

I don't have a solution if the majority decides to vote themselves into servitude, however.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 09:24:20 AM EST
I mostly agree with you. Just this one point:

Both countries still have a residual group who feel that the best days were in the past when strong leaders defended national pride.

Seems a bit of a leap. Reflection on the "glory days" in Germany is a marginal phenomenon - politically, socially and geographically as well. The rhetoric plays no part in the general discourse (except to entirely disqualify the speaker).

The only lever Schäuble uses is fear.

My take is that Schäuble is a control freak with an extremely low tolerance for diversity, even by the standards of his own party today.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 10:22:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 
Both countries still have a residual group who feel that the best days were in the past when strong leaders defended national pride.

All countries will have a subset of their population that are prone to authoritarian tendencies.

Whether the authoritarian tendencies are primarily due to genetics and/or environment is unknown.  If primarily due to environment, perhaps the tendencies can be reduced.  I lean towards environment as the primary cause.

Although in the foreseeable future, the authoritarian danger will continue exist in all countries.

by Jagger on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 12:03:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you are a german citizen - or EU citizen living in Germany - and wants to do a little thing to contribute to the fight against surveilliance society, Piratenpartei Deutschland are collecting signatures to be able to run in the 2009 EP elections.

There is also collection of signatures for other elections (state and federal) at Ich.WaehlePiraten.de.

A party running on stoping the surveilliance society as the main question increases the likelihood of loosing votes on a pro-surveilliance platform as well as increases the likelihood that this questions will be mentioned in the election debate at all. Signing this gets the Piratenpartei closer to running in the election, you do not promise to vote for them or anything like that.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 12:22:07 PM EST
How much judicial authorization do they need for this stuff? That to me is really the issue, not online searches per se. That's just another type of search and I don't have a problem with it, as long as there are strict warrant requirements.
by MarekNYC on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 01:14:22 PM EST
The online "search" is more on the order of a wiretap, i.e. the idea is to slip a trojan into the target computer to log content and contacts. This, together with audio and video home surveillance, represents a new qualitative level of privacy infringement potential.

Under the new law, a court order is required in advance, with exceptions for "urgent" cases; there a court order can be obtained subsequently. The problem is that they do not need to show probable cause that a specific crime has been committed, but merely an "acute danger of terror across the borders of a single state".

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 03:17:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Didn't counter-terrorism and surveillance use to be in Verfassungsshütz's job description?

And wasn't there a pretty good reason for that? Something about not wanting to have powers of surveillance and powers to arrest in the same organisation...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 12:31:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<tired voice> 9/11 changed everything.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 12:41:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, right. 9/11 showed that terrorists are, like, dangerous. 'Cuz it's not like Germany has had to deal with terrorists since before I was born...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 12:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly. You're learning.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 01:00:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the funny thing is that before 9/11, it was organized crime -- Russian mafia -- that was supposed to have changed everything, in the rhetoric of the advocates of the surveillance state in Germany.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 06:51:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the BKA's remit expanded towards counter-terrorism and self-initiated investigation during the seventies, in reation to the then terrorism. But it's true that there was some level of division of surveillance and police work between the Verfassungsschutz and the BKA even then.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 07:02:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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