How to get yourself on a terrorism watchlist – don’t try this at home!

Readers, I am on leave at the moment so taking my time drafting a new post – while I do my best to do at least one a week, I sorely need a break.

However, I would like to draw your attention to a new article in The Intercept, titled “Blacklisted: The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist.

There is some rather shocking information (at least for me) in it on how easily people end up on – for example – a no-flight list and on how difficult it is to get taken off it again. As with cases of (other) mass surveillance, one of the problems is that much of the information surrounding these lists is classified and that it can therefore be extremely difficult to contest one’s placement on such a list in court because proceedings might touch on classified information.

The Intercept has a long feature on this, as well as the full key document – the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance” – which “spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings.”

The Guardian also has an article on this titled “How the US’s terrorism watchlists work – and how you could end up on one“.

In other NSA news, The Intercept also ran a story this week on the NSA’s cooperation witch the Saudi Ministry of the Interior (MOI for short) which Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain call “one of the world’s most repressive and abusive government agencies.”

I’ll be back with more posts of my own shortly.


Security states vs. the world we want to live in: Snowden on patriotism, government…and us

We the people, you the people…have both the means and capabilities to help build a better future by encoding our rights.

– Edward Snowden at HOPE.

Edward Snowden made a couple of appearances this week. One of them in an interview with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and journalist Ewen MacAskill (edited transcript here, even more heavily edited video here) and one at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in New York.

At HOPE, Snowden – connected via video link from Russia – chatted with Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame, one of Snowden’s most outspoken supporters). No need to say that watching these two inspirational men discussing things like whistleblowing, democracy and technology was a highly gratifying experience. You can watch the video here.

Amongst other things, Snowden repeated his appeal for stronger encryption and told the audience that “technology empowers dissent” as well as “democracy.”

He also said that

the only way to enable whistleblowers is to give them better tools to pass secrets to journalists, protecting their communications, their identities and preventing them from going to jail for it.

Ellsberg agreed that societies need more whistleblowers while praising Snowden (and Iraq War Logs leaker Chelsea Manning) for giving him fresh hope that there were other people like him willing to risk their lives and freedom to protect the constitution and the rights and freedoms of others.

In comments that were highly impassioned at times, Ellsberg credited Snowden with being “the only one within the [expletive] NSA who did what everybody should have done” and said that the felt “offended” when people called Edward Snowden a traitor.


You [Snowden] did the right thing.

– Daniel Ellsberg at HOPE.

Now, there has been much talk about whether Edward Snowden is hero or traitor, patriot or spy. Personally, I find that rhetoric puzzling, unnecessarily charged and somewhat meaningless. In an NBC Interview in May this year, Snowden himself made the point that “patriot is a word that’s thrown around so much it can be devalued nowadays.”

Similarly, the terms “hero” and “traitor” seem like something out of a novel rather than terms used to describe a real-life person. Arguably, what Snowden has done is heroic. It may or may not be one of the most powerful examples of what or who the word “hero” could describe these days. Daniel Ellsberg certainly seems to think so. However, the fact of the matter is that the hero-traitor dichotomy has been bandied about far too much when actually it shouldn’t matter whether or not Snowden is seen as either. His disclosures speak for themselves. There can be no question that surveillance in the US and in fact many other countries is out of control and in dire need of reform. As such, Snowden’s disclosures have served people, democracy and, yes, the US and other countries in making them aware of this need. The value of these disclosures is thus independent of how we view Edward Snowden himself.

Snowden agrees. At HOPE, he told the audience (including NSA personnel he said he expected to be present):

I could be full of sh**…Criticize me, hate me, but think about what matters […] think about the world you want to live in and then be part of building that.

Similarly, in his most recent interview with the Guardian he said:

What matters are how people feel about these issues, regardless of your opinion of me. What matters are your rights and how they’re being infringed.

He is right, of course. Yet it does seem important to Snowden – or has seemed that way until quite recently – to assert that he is a patriot. And it seems equally important to people, especially in the US, to discuss what his intentions and motivations are. It therefore may not seem surprising, if perhaps a little irritating, that the issue is being regurgitated again and again.


Patriotism and government

Actually, Snowden’s views on what it means to be a patriot are worthy of note, especially when taking a good look at our governments.

Snowden told NBC:

Being a patriot doesn’t mean prioritising service to government above all else. Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen from the violations or encroachments of adversaries.

Actually, this is also what being an elected representative of the people should mean: protecting the country, the constitution, and the people – something which many (Western) governments are doing a terrible job of at the moment.


Germany: sabotaging the investigation into NSA spying

For example, the German government recently has been miffed at finding a US spy within their foreign intelligence agency. The CIA station chief in Germany has been asked to leave the country. I have commented before on why that is little more than a cosmetic step. Inviting Edward Snowden to testify before the NSA investigative committee and offering him asylum in Germany is the only step that will send a clear signal, both to the US and the German people.

Speaking about the situation in Germany to the Guardian, Edward Snowden said:

I think it’s surprising in Germany that they’ve asked for me to testify as a witness and aid their investigation into mass surveillance but at the same time they’ve barred me from entering Germany. That’s led to an extraordinary situation where the search for truth has been subordinated to political priorities … I think it does a disservice to the broader public…

Snowden is right. It does do a disservice to the public. For the government not to show commitment to a full and comprehensive investigation into NSA spying – which is impossible without Snowden – is unreasonable. Yet it is very often Snowden whose true commitment is being second-guessed.


The UK: an emergency law without an emergency

Meanwhile in the UK, something called the DRIP bill (short for Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill) has passed the House of Commons. DRIP is an emergency security law that gives “security services access to people’s phone and internet records.” Civil liberties campaigners oppose it, not least because of the way in which DRIP was passed: “from announcement to enactment in eight days”. What this represents once again is “an utter failure to engage in an open, mature, public debate about the clash between privacy and security online.” The absence, in fact, of the debate Edward Snowden has been trying to instigate and that the UK government seems particularly unwilling to engage in. By passing DRIP in the way it has (which Snowden has condemned as “defying belief”), the UK government has effectively deprived the people of such a debate and that by

obvious propaganda (“emergencies”, paedophiles, terrorists, and crooks at every turn), deception (“status quo” and “clarifications” masking naked extension of interception powers and extraterritorial reach), and hypocrisy (the UK can no longer meaningfully criticise surveillance conducted under more repressive regimes).

Let us be clear: we are not at war. Passing this bill as an emergency after ignoring it for a year is unwarranted and irresponsible. Also, let’s not forget that the European Court of Justice declared mass surveillance unlawful and incompatible with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Then again, given the increasing Euroscepticism in the UK and moves to repeal the Human Rights Act, it doesn’t seem at all surprising that the UK government would pass a bill that goes against the ECJ ruling. The people of the UK need to be very mindful of what their government is doing to their rights.

Australia: put whistleblowers and journalists in prison, demands attorney general

In Australia this week, attorney general George Brandis (aka the man who calls Edward Snowden a “traitor”) proposed a new bill that could see whistleblowers and journalists put in prison for extended periods of time for leaking and reporting on classified information.

It is obvious that a bill like that would likely make people even more reluctant than they already are to risk their freedom to expose wrongdoing – something which Daniel Ellsberg bemoaned at HOPE and for which Edward Snowden has expressed sympathy both at the conference and to the Guardian.

Also, in his interview with the Guardian, Edward Snowden responded to the much-advanced national security argument – which is also being used by Brandis in Australia:

We constantly hear the phrase “national security” but when the state begins … broadly intercepting the communications, seizing the communications by themselves, without any warrant, without any suspicion, without any judicial involvement, without any demonstration of probable cause, are they really protecting national security or are they protecting state security? What I came to feel – and what I think more and more people have seen at least the potential for – is that a regime that is described as a national security agency has stopped representing the public interest and has instead begun to protect and promote state security interests. And the idea of western democracy as having state security bureaus, just that term, that phrase itself, “state security bureau”, is kind of chilling.

Make no mistake: it is chilling, plain and simple. End of. No “kind of” about it. For any “regime” not to represent the public interest but state security instead is a violation of democracy.
That is something that Edward Snowden did not want to watch happening, a society he has stated, he would not want to live in. The question is: do we? And if not, what are we prepared to do to protect our societies, our democracies and their values?

The country is worth dying for

– Edward Snowden

If I could ask Edward Snowden one question (apart from the one about gun-control: I’d really like to hear his views on that), it would be what he means when he says: “The country is worth dying for.” I cannot be the only one to whom the idea of dying for something as abstract as “the country” is difficult to understand. It sounds jingoistic, no matter how much you value society and its values. Similarly, the notion of protecting ones country, constitution, countrymen from “adversaries” seems to paint a polarised picture of “us” and “them” in its apparent black-and-white simplicity. Which is just as problematic as the hero-traitor dichotomy.

However, in the NBC interview, Snowden explained that adversaries

don’t have to be foreign countries. They can be bad policies, they can be officials who…need a little bit more accountability, they can be mistakes of government and simple overreach…

Indeed, sometimes the danger to countries, people or constitutions comes from within, from “mistakes” and “bad decisions”, from governments who for example use a national trauma to justify massive infringements of civil rights.

This problem can be witnessed not only in the US but in other democracies as well – be it in the UK’s DRIP bill or Germany’s sabotage of its own NSA inquiry. From that point of view, it may become more obvious what Snowden might mean when he says that being a “patriot” is to know when to protect not only people and countries physically but also their ideals, their rights and liberties as enshrined in their constitutions. Daniel Ellsberg made a similar point at HOPE, saying that he, Snowden and Chelsea Manning never swore an oath to secrecy (they signed a non-disclosure agreement) but to protect the constitution.

In the Guardian interview, Snowden’s idea of the country finally became clearer:

when we think about the nation we think about our country, we think about our home, we think about the people living in it and we think about its values.

This includes the constitution that enshrines these values. It is what has me worried about what the German government’s shenanigans are saying about German sovereignty or about how highly the government values the constitution. Because effectively, the German government is not protecting the German constitution and the question is why. Is it because Germany isn’t, in fact, a sovereign state? Is it because the government does not have the courage to stand up for the constitutional rights of its citizens? Or is it because, actually, the government doesn’t want to? Governments, it seems, are often at odds with the constitution on whose basis they should be held accountable – and hold themselves accountable.

In the UK, which has no written constitution, government and intelligence agencies seem to revel in the freedom they feel that gives them – the freedom to infringe civil rights and to take from people their opportunity to choose, to have a say in constructing the society they want to live in.

Implicit in this kind of behaviour is a dangerous argument:

democracy is unsustainable as a model… the public… should give up on [making decisions] and move to an authoritarian system of government.

We are on our way there. Germany’s government isn’t anywhere near decisive enough when it comes to investigating US and NSA overreach. Either that’s because its representatives are not brave enough to stand up to the US, which effectively means democracy isn’t working, or it’s because their own intelligence agency is itself engaging in questionable activities – which would be even more damaging to democracy. At worst, it’s because giving power to the people limits the power of government. Either way, the government is not properly representing or defending the interests of the German people.

In the UK, the situation is even worse. The UK’s “very light oversight regime compared to all other western countries,” enables government and intelligence agencies “to implement systems and policies and target people who are not necessary to target.” DRIP is proof of that.


Building security states

“I don’t believe the US, or ever should be,” Edward Snowden told NBC. “A security state.” Nor should any other country. Most people would probably agree on that. Yet to make sure that governments and agencies do not build, or continue to build, security states without at least consulting us,

we have to be an active part of our government…If we want to be free, there is no justification, no matter how traumatic the situation, to remove… rights and liberties – at least not without asking the people first.

The question of how many of our rights and liberties we are willing to give up in the name of security, is a question that needs to be asked publicly, of the people. For someone who made it possible for this question to be debated in the open to be branded traitor or spy is incredibly disingenuous.


Building the world we want to live in

And yet, in the end it really doesn’t matter what we think of Edward Snowden. What matters is the evidence of our own eyes, of what we are confronted with every day. And that doesn’t point to governments always acting in our best interest. It doesn’t point to intelligence agencies that work, as they claim, in strict accordance with the law. It doesn’t point to working systems of oversight or to mass surveillance being useful against terrorism.

In the words of a popular British sleuth: Look at the evidence. Really look. Observe. Then make a deduction.

In the words of Edward Snowden:

Criticize me, hate me, but think about what matters […] think about the world you want to live in and then be part of building that.

One year on Team Edward: Happy Birthday, Notes from Self!

Team Ed

This blog is a year old today! On 14th July 2013 I wrote a letter to Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC replying to her open letter to Edward Snowden (which I thought was a bit daft). Since then, I have been blogging continuously.

Over the past year, I have learned a lot, written a lot, been angry a lot… I have closely followed the Snowden disclosures, watched interviews, observed reactions the world over and I can say one thing for certain: I haven’t seen or heard anything that makes me doubt that these revelations are of paramount importance. I haven’t seen or heard anything either that makes me doubt Edward Snowden or his motivations – the opposite being true of the motivations of our elected leaders and the people who have been trying to smear, demonise or belittle Snowden, the reporting journalists and what they have revealed.

No doubt about it: Edward Snowden did the democracies of this world a great service and I will not get tired of saying that that service should be recognised!


Time to step outside the comfort zone: Germany must offer Edward Snowden asylum

Berlin is angry, but is it angry enough to take the right step?

An interesting opinion piece by German journalist Paul Hockennos appeared on Al Jazeera this week, discussing why Germany should offer Edward Snowden asylum. The piece pretty much reflects my opinion on the matter and it makes some very valid and important points. It also asks the key question quoted above: is Germany ready to take what is not only the next logical, but also a decisive and crucial step: grant Edward Snowden political asylum. This has less to do with anger than with necessity and sensibility.

The German government may recently have asked the CIA’s Berlin station chief to leave, following the discovery of what seem to be US spies inside the German BND (the foreign intelligence agency) and even on the NSA investigative committee of the German parliament. While this is unprecedented and has been hailed as a strong sign that Germany is not prepared to stand for US spying anymore, I agree with Hockennos that the step is merely symbolic.

Germany now needs to offer Edward Snowden asylum. Doing so would be the only way of really making a difference, taking a stand and showing that the German government supports a thorough investigation into mass surveillance – which, I am guessing, it really doesn’t.

Still, apart from this and the obvious (that Edward Snowden deserves our respect, help and solidarity), there are various other good reasons to grant Snowden asylum:

One, it would be

a concrete, constructive step in the direction of addressing the problem of the world’s powers’ out-of-control data gathering at both the diplomatic and private level.


[i]t’s high time that the European Union, led by Germany, took the lead on restoring the civil liberties of ordinary citizens robbed of them during the war on terror. Nothing would underscore this priority more clearly than rewarding Snowden with a safe home.

Three, it

would also prompt a long-overdue readjustment in the transatlantic relationship, which the expulsion of a single spy chief — a highly conventional way of marking displeasure — won’t do….Providing political asylum to Snowden would mean so much more than this harmless diplomatic swipe. It would spark a reassessment of U.S. foreign policy since the war on terror began.

Both Germany and the U.S. have been slow to readjust to the post–Cold War reality of a fully sovereign Germany that has become the de facto leader of the EU.

As such,

both Germany and the EU share responsibility for [the current] state of affairs. They have both been far too lethargic about establishing independent, clearly formulated foreign affairs and security policies.

The importance of these reasons should not be underestimated. In fact, one of the main points of criticism that could be launched against the German government – and I have said this before – is that Merkel is wasting precisely this opportunity: that of establishing independent policies and a counter-weight to US dominance, based on

principles and precedents for foreign and security policies that could look very different from those of the U.S. in the 21st century, namely ones based largely, though not exclusively, on strategic diplomacy, trade-and-aid, conflict prevention, human rights and democratization.

The EU and Germany both have some good principles that should not be easily sacrificed for the sake of a flawed “friendship” or in fact the quarrels that have been going on within the EU for a long time and which have been exacerbated recently for example by the increasingly Eurosceptic stance of the UK government. The short-sightedness that dominates the foreign politics of many EU countries is shocking and Germany is currently wasting an opportunity to negotiate a stronger position for itself and the EU.

Of course, Merkel’s government has repeatedly cited the importance of US-German relations – this is “the bottom line” and “[s]ometimes the conservatives say [it]outright” – as a reason for not granting Edward Snowden asylum or for failing to take a more emphatic stance.

However, Germany has taken an independent course from the US before

mostly notably in 2003 when Gerhard Schröder’s center-left administration not only declined to partake in the U.S. invasion of Iraq but openly criticized the Bush administration. The dimensions of the acrimony that were provoked between Berlin and Washington shouldn’t be forgotten. This current diplomatic tiff is going to have to escalate a long, long way to measure up.

Basically, Germany has seen worse and lived through it – US-German relations have lived through it. Merkel seems to have forgotten that, but her politics of “wait and see” simply won’t do anymore. It is time someone called nonsense on the German government’s warning that

Germany couldn’t guarantee Snowden’s safety in Germany, in the event that the U.S. issues a snatch order or demands his arrest and extradition.


claim that German security couldn’t protect Snowden on German soil is nonsense, a feeble excuse to not consider inviting him or considering asylum. Merkel doesn’t want to offend Germany’s powerful ally and security provider.

I have blogged before on whether it can be true that Germany would not be able to protect Snowden. It made me worry about German sovereignty and about who really runs the country.

I am now almost certain that what these warnings really are, is an attempt to scare Snowden off, to stop him from getting to Germany and applying for asylum the moment he sets foot on German soil. The German administration, I am guessing, fears the dilemma it would be facing if that happened: extraditing Snowden would undermine any claim that the government is interested in a thorough investigation into the NSA affair even more than any of their previous moves have done. Also, it would pitch public opinion further against them. Not letting Snowden into Germany is one thing – handing him over to the US would be quite another. It should be obvious why getting stuck between a rock and a hard place like that is a situation that the German government is trying to avoid at all costs. Sadly, it is costing the government its credibility and the respect not only of German citizens but of people outside of Germany as well. It is also costing Germans their rights and civil liberties. More than that, Merkel’s administration is wasting an opportunity of formulating new “foreign and security policies” for both Germany and the EU “which would view the U.S. as an important partner and ally but not Europe’s minder.”

Clearly, taking a step forwards into the depth of uncharted waters can be uncomfortable and frightening. It is a particular condition of human nature to try and avoid that sort of thing, to stick with what we know, even if we know it to be potentially disadvantageous or harmful. The comfort of the known often seems preferable to the fear and discomfort of the unknown. However, there comes a time when we need to step outside our comfort zones towards something new and unfamiliar to improve the conditions we live in. For the EU – and for Germany in particular – that time is now. For Merkel’s administration, wasting that opportunity not only means passing up the chance of shifting the balance between Germany, the EU and the US. It also means letting down its electorate in more ways than one.

Das Ende des Dackeltums? „Ausweisung“ eines US-Geheimdienstlers

Die Bundesregierung weist dem obersten US-Geheimdienstler im Zuge der BND-Affäre die Tür. Viel mehr als eine grandiose Geste ist das erstmal nicht. Was folgt, bleibt abzuwarten.

Ein Geständnis: ich fürchte mich vor Dackeln. Nicht, weil Dackel die gefährlichsten aller Hunde wären (da fürchte ich mich eher vor Dobermännern), sondern weil Dackel für mich persönlich schreckliche Dinge symbolisieren: Spießertum und Rudelmentalität. Gehorsam. Anbiederung. Kleinlichkeit. Genauso unheimlich finde ich Schrebergärten. Regeln und Grenzen und Zäune überall. Ich entschuldige mich dafür bei allen Dackeln und Besitzern von Schrebergärten, denen meine Vorurteile Unrecht tun. Ich bin Ihnen noch nicht begegnet.

Nicht zuletzt aufgrund meiner seltsamen Phobie erscheint mir aber Jacob Augsteins Vergleich der Bundesregierung mit einem Dackel überaus passend. Augstein hofft, dass Deutschland, das ungeliebte Hündchen der Amerikaner, seinen Stolz entdecken und sich endlich emanzipieren möge. Weg von Gehorsam und Anbiederung, hin zu Verantwortung und, ja, irgendwie auch Ehre. Das fehlt uns. Sicherlich ein Grund, aus dem so viele Menschen Leute wie Edward Snowden bewundern. Der steht noch für die alten Tugenden der Ritterlichkeit. „Held“ nennen ihn viele – ein gewichtiges Wort, aber sicher nicht ganz deplatziert.

Überhaupt Edward Snowden: an ihm wird sich letztlich zeigen, ob es nun ein Ende hat mit dem deutschen Dackeltum. Ob es denn nun wirklich „auch einmal reicht“.

Der Dackel hat diese Woche seine Zähne gezeigt. Kurz nach dem Erscheinen von Augsteins Artikel die Meldung, dass die Bundesregierung dem Oberspion der USA die Ausreise nahelegt. Das mag ein wichtiger Schritt sein. Aber man sollte deswegen nicht gleich in Begeisterungsstürme ausbrechen.

Zum einen ist die Aufforderung zur Ausreise noch keine Ausweisung – auch wenn der Spiegel die Aktion eine „faktische Ausweisung“ nennt und diverse andere Quellen die Sache als solche behandeln. „Kalt erwischt“ heißt es da, Deutschland habe „den wichtigsten Verbündeten wie einen Paria-Staat behandelt: Iran, Nordkorea, diese Kategorie“. Naja, aber „persona non grata“ ist der Geheimdienstler bisher nicht – das wäre die eigentliche Ausweisung: Verlassen des Landes innerhalb von 72 Stunden.

Zum zweiten ist dies die erste nennenswerte Reaktion der Bundesregierung auf eine aktuelle Spionage-Affäre – mit der seit 13 Monaten andauernden NSA-Affäre sieht es da ja bekanntlich anders aus. „Irgendwann muss auch mal gut sein“, sagte Bundesinnenminister de Maizière (nun endlich) und ich fange jetzt nicht wieder davon an, dass es eigentlich schon seit geraumer Zeit genug ist, dass aber bisher der Dackel immer den Schwanz eingezogen hat.

Vielleicht ist das einer der Gründe aus dem die Amerikaner nicht sonderlich beeindruckt scheinen. Gut, die Senatoren Feinstein und Risch zeigen sich „zutiefst besorgt“ über eine Situation, die anfängt, „außer Kontrolle zu geraten.” Meinen, man müsste sich an einen Tisch setzen. Es sei aber daran erinnert, dass Senatorin Feinstein sich auch gehörig über die CIA-Spitzelei im amerikanischen Senat aufgeregt hat. Dazu wird es, wie diese Woche ebenfalls verkündet wurde, keine weitere Untersuchung geben. Wenn die USA nicht einmal CIA-Spionage gegen ihre eigenen Abgeordneten weiterverfolgen, wie groß sind dann wohl die Chancen, dass sie im Fall Deutschland „aktiv zur Aufklärung der Vorwürfe beitragen, die im Raum stehen”, wie Bundesjustizminister Heiko Maas forderte?

Mal ehrlich: überrascht es wirklich irgendwen, dass aus US-Regierungskreisen bisher kaum eine nennenswerte Reaktion erfolgt ist? „Jen Psaki, Sprecherin des US-Außenministeriums… agiert so, wie es die Amerikaner stets auch in der NSA-Spähaffäre getan haben“, ohne „spezifischen Kommentar“, obwohl die Partnerschaft mit Deutschland den USA „sehr wichtig“ sei. „Funkstille“ auch von US-Regierungssprecher Josh Earnest und aus dem Hauptquartier der CIA.

Und glaubt wirklich irgendwer, dass es „eine klare Aussage über eventuelle weitere Spionagefälle, von denen wir möglicherweise noch nichts wissen“ geben wird? Oder gar „verbindliche Zusicherungen aus Washington…dass diese Praxis ein für alle Mal beendet werde“?

Klar, haha, selten so gelacht. Wer das allen Ernstes für eine Möglichkeit hält, dem sei James Kirchicks Artikel im Daily Beast  nahegelegt, bei dem man sich auch nach mehrmaligem Lesen noch fragt, ob der Autor den Unsinn, den er da schreibt, wirklich ernst meint. US-Spionage in Deutschland sei völlig gerechtfertigt. Nicht nur, weil Deutschland selbst spioniert, sondern auch wegen

Berlins Verbindungen zu Russland… den iranisch-deutschen Handelsbeziehungen [und weil] schließlich Deutschland Heimat der Hamburger Zelle war, also der 9/11-Attentäter. Spionage in Deutschland, so Kirchicks Punkt, nutze nicht nur den USA, sondern eben auch den Alliierten, letztlich also ebenso den Deutschen.

Eben. Augsteins Datenfutternapf wird dadurch immer wieder aufgefüllt.

“Ein gewisser Grad an Spionage gegen Deutschland ist gerechtfertigt”, argumentiert auch der Amerikaner James Lewis:

Kennen Sie eine weitere Macht, deren früherer Anführer auf Putins Gehaltsliste steht?” Dann sei da Deutschlands Beziehung zu China. Ja, sagt Lewis, Freunde sollten Freunde nicht ausspionieren, “aber Freunde sollten auch keine Militärtechnik an Feinde verkaufen.

Besonders die letzte Aussage fasse ich immer noch nicht. Jetzt mal ganz im Ernst: wer verarscht hier eigentlich wen?

Norbert Röttgen und seine Delegation haben die Amerikaner jedenfalls auflaufen lassen.

Wir stellen fest, dass bei unseren Gesprächspartnern sehr wenig Problembewusstsein vorhanden ist, sagt Röttgen dazu. Wir haben keine Informationen und Hinweise darauf erhalten, dass sich die Politik ändert, dass sich die Kommunikation ändert, sodass noch ein weiter Weg zu gehen ist, um den Schaden zu begrenzen.

Fragt sich, wie weit die deutsche Regierung bereit ist, für die Schadensbegrenzung zu gehen. Wenn die USA uns nicht entgegen kommen, gehen wir dann immer weiter auf sie zu, bis von unseren Anliegen nichts mehr übrig ist? So war es ja bisher.

Finanzminister Schäuble findet das alles zum Heulen. Ist es auch. Aber nicht, weil es „so was von blöd“ von den Amerikanern ist, in Deutschland „drittklassige“ Leute anzuwerben. Sondern, weil es sich bei allem sogenannten Druck, der jetzt in Folge der BND-Spitzelei aufgebaut wird, wohl doch nur um „Kosmetik“ handelt. Und weil Herr de Maizière der Ansicht ist, man solle auf Spionage mit mehr Spionage reagieren. „Die USA haben uns gehauen! Jetzt hauen wir einfach zurück!“ Sind wir hier eigentlich im Kindergarten, oder was? Wenn man sich die emotionale Heul-Rhetorik antut, die in dieser Sache vorherrscht, kann der Eindruck schon entstehen. Zum Beispiel Verteidigungsministerin von der Leyen: „Es gehört zur guten Zusammenarbeit auch dazu, dass Vertrauen herrscht, dieses Vertrauen ist im Augenblick zutiefst erschüttert.“ Eine „schmerzhafte“ Sache sei das – oder auch ein „ernsthafter Vorgang“, wie Kanzlerin Merkel es nennt. „Enttäuscht“ sei sie und „fassungslos“.

Herrje, gib denen doch mal einer ein Taschentuch! Das ist ja nicht mehr zum Aushalten! „Ritualisierte Empörung“ nennt der ewig-geniale Sascha Lobo das, diagnostiziert den USA „Spähsucht“ und findet so auch eine Erklärung für „[d]ie wiederholten, hilflosen Reaktionen der Regierung zur Totalüberwachung“. Sie entsprächen „exakt dem hilflosen Umgang mit einem schwer drogensüchtigen Familienmitglied.“ Oder eben auch dem eines Dackels, der Angst hat, nichts mehr zu fressen zu kriegen, wenn er anstatt nur zu knurren, das lieblose Herrchen auch mal ins Bein beißt. Von mehrfach untreuen Ehepartnern ganz zu schweigen. Die Liste der Analogien wird dieser Tage immer länger.

Der Direktor des Instituts für Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Kiel, Joachim Krause, bringt allerdings den größten Klopper:

Die Bundesregierung riskiert derzeit eine massive Verschlechterung der transatlantischen Beziehungen, ohne dass die vorliegenden Fälle dieses Vorgehen rechtfertigen.

Ungerechtfertigt sind die Empörung und eine seit langem überfällige Reaktion also auch noch! Die transatlantischen Beziehungen noch massiver verschlechtern (geht das?) will man natürlich auch nicht. Daher scheint es trotz all der Furore, die um den knurrenden deutschen Dackel momentan gemacht wird, unwahrscheinlich, dass auf die Drohgebärden auch ein Losreißen folgt.

Schließlich sperrt man sich mit fadenscheinigen Begründungen auch weiterhin gegen den Zeugen Snowden. Der sagt jetzt übrigens auch (wieder zu Recht) nein zu einer Videobefragung.

Das Schreiben seines Anwalts Wolfgang Kaleck in Antwort auf eine entsprechende Anfrage klingt genervt.

Kein Wunder.

NSA mass surveillance: it’s a bit like climate change

Some weeks ago, I argued (in German) that NSA mass surveillance is somewhat like climate change: an omnipresent, yet abstract threat, its pervasiveness is not immediately obvious to many people. There are some deniers, and many who feel powerless to do anything about it.

Interestingly, The Observer recently ran an editorial on antibiotic resistance, comparing antibiotic resistance and the way it’s being tackled to climate change.

Now, in the Observer piece, you could easily replace “climate change” with “mass surveillance” without the argument losing any of its impact. This made me decide to re-write the op-ed. The original is here.

The following is the modified version:

The news last week was awash with threats to global security: al-Qaida-sponsored stealth bombs; British jihadists fighting in Syria. Claims have been made repeatedly that NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance is conducted to work against precisely such threats. Evidence that mass surveillance does anything to reduce these threats remains elusive. Governments and spooks expect us to take their word for it. Meanwhile, cryptographers have been sounding alarm bells about how weakening encryption in particular undermines the security of the internet. Global leaders are slow to take heed.

Granted, the US House of Representatives recently ended the warrantless collection of communications data. However, despite recent revelations in Der Spiegel, the German government is still slow to respond to the Snowden disclosures. Last week’s revelation of a potential spy on the NSA investigate committee has so far produced no reaction that goes beyond the chancellor expressing her concern about these “serious” allegations. Given developments up to this point, there seems to be little hope that even if these allegations turn out to be true, the German government will take the one significant step Germans have been waiting for: invite Edward Snowden to testify before the NSA investigative committee.

Yet, even without allegations of spying on the NSA committee, facts – based on revelations from the Snowden trove – are stark. People the world over are subject to systematic mass spying. So are global leaders, the EU, and the UN. All in the name of national and international security. Of the so-called, omnipresent, yet infinitely obscure “war on terror”.

There are definite echoes here of the climate change challenge. The scale of both climate change and mass surveillance is immense: neither respect national boundaries. With surveillance, of course, the whole point of foreign intelligence is to spy on people in nations outside your own to protect your own security. So far, so good. But that’s not what’s being done. Rather, spy agencies use legal loopholes to spy on their own citizens, mass surveillance often has little to do with protection from terrorism and more with economic interests. And yet, its scale is intensely human: the solution to the problem lies in hundreds of millions of people making small changes to their day-to-day behaviour, such as using encryption, using a different search engine than Google, or something as simple as strengthening their Facebook security settings.  And in the case of both climate change and mass surveillance, developments in technology have a critical role to play – for example by providing the infrastructure, technology and tools needed to facilitate both data protection and, yes, sustainability.

The limited progress made so far on surveillance legislation illustrates how little we know about how to change human behaviour. Advertisers have deployed sophisticated insights about how to tap into the human psyche to make money, but behavioural science is yet to be applied to protecting privacy, human rights and the internet.

Last, both climate change and mass surveillance have taught us that science is not intrinsically benevolent. It has delivered innovations that have transformed humanity. But these have not emerged from a private sector putting security and enlightenment before profit, but as a result of a public-private partnership involving significant state investment. Advancements in low-carbon tech have been constrained by industry’s perception of limited profits; likewise, technology companies will not invest in better encryption and meaningful data protection unless they see benefits for shareholders. Governments are still mostly failing to address this; instead, there is much talk but very little action.

Reasons for optimism? Questionable. The effect of mass surveillance is just as obscure to some as is the effect of climate change. Mass surveillance is pervasive, it effects rich, Western democracies just as much – perhaps more – than it does the countries it allegedly targets for the sake of national security, of stopping terrorism. Just like he effects of climate change, concentrated on some of the poorest parts of the world, surveillance is only seen as disruptive and dangerous when used by a government that is itself perceived as threatening, in countries that do not conform to Western standards of human rights and civil liberties. It is easy to demonise Russia and China because the threat to these rights and liberties is more obvious there than it is in the US, the UK, Germany and the rest of Europe.

The struggle against mass surveillance cannot rest on expert reports, legal inquiries or government investigations: it will require real action from people and governments around the world. It will require individuals to rethink their own behaviours. Like climate change, the NSA, GCHQ, BND and any other obscure spy agency may seem like formidable adversaries. However, strength is still in numbers and if each and every single individual of the many people affected by these issues – be it climate change or mass surveillance – were to take but one step of action against it, change would be possible.

Much like mass surveillance becomes less economically viable the more people use encryption, energy providers for example can be pressured into changing their behaviour if customers take steps to ensure that non-renewable, clean energy becomes less economically viable then its non-renewable equivalent.

It may seem that there this not much reason for optimism just yet but there is reason for hope. Hope that people will realise that they are not as powerless as they believe themselves to be and that they will take the steps necessary to oppose mass surveillance in whichever way they can. All we need to do is get past the error of thinking that tells us that we are powerless to do anything.

We are not.

„Jetzt reicht’s auch einmal!“ Her mit dem Snowden!

Frau Merkel ist “beunruhigt”.

Offenbar gab es einen Maulwurf im NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss. Laut Spiegel Berichten war dieser nicht nur dort zugange, sondern trieb schon seit einer ganzen Weile sein Unwesen:

Über Jahre soll der BND-Mitarbeiter zwischen 200 und 300 vertrauliche Dokumente aus dem internen BND-System abgezapft und auf einem USB-Stick gespeichert haben… Zwischen 2012 und 2014 soll der Mann die Informationen verkauft haben – an einen Mitarbeiter eines US-Geheimdiensts.

Na sowas! Das geht aber nicht! Kanzlerin Merkel empört sich und spricht von „Vertrauensbruch des US-Geheimdienstes.“ Generalbundesanwalt Range bekommt zusätzlich zu seiner Untersuchung zur Ausspionierung des Merkelphone noch mehr zu tun: er prüfe den Fall, heisst es aus Regierungskreisen.

Äh…Ich erinnere da mal kurz an was: Deutschland im Oktober 2013. Der Spiegel berichtet, Frau Merkel stünde seit Jahren auf der Abhörliste der NSA. Die Kanzlerin ruft bei Präsident Obama und beschwert sich, spricht von – genau! – einem Vertrauensbruch. Der Focus behauptet gar, die USA hätten das Vertrauen „verspielt“. Die transatlantischen Beziehungen seien massiv gestört…

Naja, so gestört nun auch wieder nicht. Riesenaufstand, ja klar. Entschuldigungen überall – auch das. Aber keine Einsicht in Frau Merkels NSA-Akte oder Anworten auf die von der Bundesregierung an die USA zur Spähaffäre gestellten Fragen. Und die Ausspähung von 80 Millionen Deutschen? Keine nennenswerten Anstrengungen zur Aufklärung. Der Fall „Lauschangriff“ aufs Handy verläuft im Sande, der NSA-Ausschuss verliert sich in Zänkereien um den Kronzeugen Edward Snowden, lädt diesen aber nicht nach Deutschland und sabotiert schlussendlich beinahe jegliche Chance auf irgendeine Aussage. Aufklärung? Mal im Duden nachschlagen…

Deutschland, einige Zeit später: ein BND-Spion im NSA-Ausschuss. Er arbeitet vermutlich für die USA. Oh Schmach! Wieder Geschrei.

Jetzt reicht‘s auch einmal!“ meldet sich Bundespräsident Gauck (auch endlich einmal) lautstark zu Wort und bezeichnet den Fall (mal wieder) „als Risiko für die deutsch-amerikanischen Beziehungen“. Der US-Botschafter wird ins Auswärtige Amt zitiert. Unionspoltiker fordern gar die Ausweisung von US-Agenten, während Innenminister de Maizière offenbar der Ansicht ist, es sei keine total schwachsinnige Idee auf Spionage mit Spionage zu reagieren und dann eben „den Aufklärungsauftrag der [deutschen] Geheimdienste auf die USA aus[zu]weiten“. Kopf – Tisch.

Rhetorik und Reaktion, Rhetorik als Reaktion – es ist immer das Gleiche. Die Geschichte wiederholt sich.

Gesche Joost, die Deutschlands digitale Interessen in Brüssel vertritt, kritisiert das ebenfalls und spricht von „mangelder Leidenschaft“ für die Aufklärung. An sich auch ein rhetorischer Stirnrunzler. Leidenschaft? Braucht eigentlich kein Mensch. Zumindest nicht für die Aufklärung einer NSA-Affäre. Die Regierung schonmal gar nicht. Man müsste sich lediglich auf den Amtseid besinnen, den man geleistet hat. „Schaden vom deutschen Volke zu wenden“. Kurz gesagt: man müsste schlicht das einzig Richtige tun. Leidenschaft braucht man dafür nicht. Lediglich einen moralischen Kompass, der nach Norden zeigt – und Klarheit darüber, wem man verpflichtet ist. Letztere scheint der Bundesregierung abhanden gekommen zu sein. Hinweis: es ist nicht, wie viele Vertreter der Bundesregierung zu glauben scheinen, das transatlantische Verhältnis zu den USA. Diese Ansicht ist, wie Christian Schlüter in der Frankfurther Rundschau schreibt „offenkundige Verkehrung“ – Bündnistreue vor Grundrechten. Der Kompass ist kaputt. Zeigt wahrscheinlich nach Süden und keiner rafft’s.

Denn reichen tut es schon seit circa 13 Monaten. Seit den ersten Snowden-Veröffentlichungen reicht es. Aber glaubt eigentlich noch irgendwer, dass die ganze Aufregung zu irgenwelchen konkreten Handlungen führt? Oder, genauer gesagt, zu der einen Handlung, die seit Monaten gefordert wird, unerlässlich ist, aber verschleppt, sabotiert, abgelehnt wird? Muss ich es aufschreiben? Edward. Snowden. Holen.

Fordert auch Gesche Joost. Als „das klare Bekenntnis der Bundesregierung: Wir wollen die Spähaffäre aufklären, das ist unsere Pflicht”. Snowden zu holen wäre ausserdem ein deutliches Signal der „Eigenständigkeit“ der Bundesregierung – wie Christian Schlüter fordert. Leidenschaft braucht man dazu nicht. Rächen muss man sich, wie Schlüter schliesst, eigentlich auch nicht. Soweit muss man gar nicht gehen oder polarisieren. Alles was man tun muss, ist das Richtige: Aufklären, Bürger schützen und dazu eben eine mögliche Beschädigung der transatlantischen Beziehungen in Kauf nehmen, die ohnehin beschädigt sind. Einer Freundschaft, die schon lange keine mehr ist.

Sofern Deutschland nicht eigentlich der unsouveräne Parkplatz der USA ist, ist die Sache im Grunde ganz einfach. Aufklärung sollte jetzt mehr denn je an der Tagesordnung sein und zwar nicht durch Anfragen an die USA und Herbeizitieren des amerikanischen Botschafters. Aufklärung kann Deutschland alleine. Dazu brauchen wir die USA nicht. Im Gegenteil: die USA werden uns kaum dabei assistieren, ihre eigenen Vergehen auch noch aufzudecken.

Nein, wir brauchen Edward Snowden. Weil Edward Snowden der Einzige ist, der wirklich aufklären kann. Weil Deutschland mit ihm ein Zeichen der Unabhängigkeit gegenüber den USA setzen könnte. Weil es jetzt (und seit langem) wirklich einmal reicht. Ganz abgesehen davon, dass Edward Snowden unseren Schutz und Beistand, unsere Solidarität verdient. Weil er nämlich von den USA mindestens genauso schäbig behandelt wird, wie wir.

Leider ist aber immernoch wahrscheinlich, dass Frau Merkel und Kohorten sich wieder eine Weile künstlich aufregen, dann aber uns Bürger mit einem „übermächtigen Geheimdienst allein…lassen“ und uns zudem „daran gewöhn[en], dass uns nicht einmal unsere Rechte noch gehören, weil sie jederzeit auf dem Altar höherer, der demokratischen Kontrolle entzogener Interessen geopfert werden können.“ Und Edward Snowden in Russland bleibt. Schlussendlich reicht es nämlich vermutlich noch lange nicht.

Also muss sich die Forderung nach Edward Snowden genauso (lange) wie alles andere wiederholen.

In diesem Sinne: Los! Es reicht jetzt! Her mit dem Snowden!