Last Friday, October 21, the
German parliament voted in favor of a
controversial bill that granted the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, the Federal Intelligence Service) greater surveillance
powers both within and outside the country. In light of its newly found,
broader rights, the German foreign intelligence agency is permitted to target EU institutions and
other EU member states when there
is a “perception of foreign and internal political and security importance.” Traditionally forbidden from spying on Germans, the BND
is now authorized to monitor and store for up to six months network data of
national telecommunication companies on German soil as well as to intercept communications of
foreign individuals and entities both within and
outside Germany. In case the data gathered is reputed to be critical for the
country’s domestic and external security and/or supposedly support
counterterrorism efforts, the agency can legally share them with foreign
Although widely supported by the Social Democrats, by the Christian Social Union, as well as by
the ruling Christian Democratic Union Party, the bill sparked criticism in the
country. Opposition lawmakers, especially from the Left Party and Green Party, slammed
the law as “unconstitutional” in that it allegedly compromises the citizens’ right to privacy and
endangers the freedom of press. While the new law prescribes tighter control
over the German foreign intelligence agency through an independent monitoring
body appointed by the federal government, critics condemned the exceedingly generic
language of its provisions which may too easily
be manipulated to accommodate the BND’s agenda. To many the new bill appears to be Germany’s latest
effort to “amplify the [country’s] spying capabilities across Europe” after Edward Snowden leaked evidence of a factual, albeit
illegal cooperation between the U.S. National Security Agency and the BND
who reportedly spied on 800,000
European IP addresses, email addresses and phone numbers in 2013.
“Green Party spokesman for Internet policy Konstantin von
Notz told the Deutsche Welle that the ruling creates an extralegal space.
“Constitutional experts, UN human rights specialists,
Reporters Without Borders, German public television and many people who have
intensively investigated the topic say that this is an unconstitutional law.
The intelligence services treat the Internet as an extralegal space. That’s
unconstitutional,” von Notz said.
On October 17, Amnesty International called for protests
against the BND law, saying that it is “grave interference in the human
rights.” The group also joined other rights moves and journalist organizations
in several petitions against the bill, which collected some 20,000 signatures.
“The BND was initially the youngest brother of the NSA,
now they are twins,” Martina Renner from the German Left party (Die Linke)
said, referring to the new BND law.
Her colleague from the Green Party, Hans Christian
Ströbele, echoed the criticism, claiming that the Government of Chancellor
Angela Merkel has missed the last chance to “put a leash” on the intelligence
agencies, Focus reports.
Meanwhile, Germany’s ex-Justice Minister Sabine
Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said she will go to court over the BND ruling.”