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spiegel has opened fire on the NSA
June 19, 2014 1:40 PM   Subscribe


 
An analysis of secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden demonstrates that the NSA is more active in Germany than anywhere else in Europe -- and that data collected here may have helped kill suspected terrorists.

"Suspected" is the key word here, and "murder" might be substituted for "kill."

I'm reading Eichmann in Jerusalem at the moment, and Arendt quotes Peter Bamm, who said "It belongs among the refinements of totalitarian government in our century that they don't permit opponents to die a great, dramatic martyr's death for their convictions... The totalitarian state lets its opponents disappear in silent anonymity."
posted by KokuRyu at 1:55 PM on June 19 [16 favorites]


I'm a bit lost on one point that probably everyone in the world but me already knows. Is Snowden still trickling out info bit by bit? Or is this just a matter of people still piecing together what he had released long ago? I was under the impression that his asylum in Russia was contingent on him having no more leaks, and that he had gotten rid of all his data anyway lest Russian intelligence get hold of it.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:03 PM on June 19


Is Snowden still trickling out info bit by bit?

No, he gave the documents to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, and then divested himself of any copies before his post-Hong Kong travels. GG and LP have been sharing certain documents with other outlets as they see fit.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 2:08 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]


NSA-related coverage from The Intercept (the Greenwald / Omidyar outfit) in the past two days:

NSA Turned Germany Into Its Largest Listening Post in Europe

How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 2:11 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


WILDCHOCOBO
posted by p3on at 2:17 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]


The more they dig, the more they'll find something Merkel doesn't want them to find--that the German government is complicit in most of the collection and does a huge amount of it for the Americans. The BND is focused almost entirely on signals intercept for its intelligence matters and is considered superior.

The entire thing with Merkel and the phone? Her protests were to encourage SPD members to vote for the coalition she needed last year to have a government. The SPD, to increase leverage, stated that they would only enter government with the CSU/CDU if their members voted for it. So Merkel made noise about her cell phone intercepts to Obama to please left-wing SPD voters.

But the rest of the intelligence collection in Germany with the NSA? The Germans are doing the majority of it and are doing the traffic analysis--they know their own country best.

The idea that Germany is some sort of victim of the NSA is a laugher.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:21 PM on June 19 [8 favorites]


CHOASOVERLORD

Guys shouldn't these be random names not the names of your gaming rigs?
posted by The Whelk at 2:21 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]


We need to start a MetaTalk for people to share their own made-up NSA program names. I bet I could laugh for hours with that.
posted by radicalawyer at 2:25 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


The idea that Germany is some sort of victim of the NSA is a laugher.

The German government is complicit, the German people are victims, as are people around the world and at home.
posted by anonymisc at 2:29 PM on June 19 [29 favorites]


We need to start a MetaTalk for people to share their own made-up NSA program names. I bet I could laugh for hours with that.

NSA time travelers appear to have read that thread, taken all the good names, and brought them back into the past.
posted by yoink at 2:31 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


It is my understanding that in late summer we are to get some truly explosive materials including names of top political figures that were spied upon
posted by Postroad at 2:33 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Man, when i lived in Berlin, the BND guys always had the best parties. I doubt many of the sites that they used when I was there are still active, though, but we did have an active BND presence on the Hill.
posted by pjern at 2:34 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


It is my understanding that in late summer we are to get some truly explosive materials including names of top political figures that were spied upon

I'm going to go ahead and guess "all of them."
posted by entropicamericana at 2:38 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]


From TFA:
The documents indicate that the NSA uses its German sites to search for a potential target by analyzing a "Pattern of Life," in the words of one Snowden file.
That's creepy as fuck.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:38 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


the BND guys always had the best parties.

Heh, there's a fun short-story: Young analysts using the massive power of unlimited surveillance as a means to maximize their party scene. :)
posted by anonymisc at 2:42 PM on June 19


check out page 3 of this document; a friend suggests #1 could be chavez, #3 is zardari and #4 is raul reyes (farc). any other guesses?

it makes my day every time new docs get leaked i live for this shit
posted by p3on at 2:49 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


"We need to start a MetaTalk for people to share their own made-up NSA program names. I bet I could laugh for hours with that."
posted by radicalawyer

It wouldn't get past the filter.
posted by marienbad at 2:49 PM on June 19


Can someone please explain to me why the European Rulers are spying on their citizens at the behest of the NSA, and giving them all the data? What are we getting out of this? Or are all the secret rulers secretly connected and there really is an illuminati?
posted by marienbad at 2:53 PM on June 19


including names of top political figures that were spied upon

Of all the parts of this story, the one I really can't understand anyone giving a toss about is that nations spy on the political leaders of other nations. I mean... duh! Ever since there have ever been anything we might call nations they have worked as hard as they can to find out whatever they could about the secret deliberations of the leaders of both their allies and their enemies. There was never a royal court or a parliament that wasn't a magnet for spies. And, you know, for good reason. It's all very well wringing one's hands and saying "but they're our allies!"; perhaps the best response to that is to quote Tom Lehrer re the Germans:
Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,
But that couldn't happen again.
We taught them a lesson in 1918
And they've hardly bothered us since then.
posted by yoink at 3:02 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


What are we getting out of this?

Backrubs?
posted by The Bellman at 3:09 PM on June 19


including names of top political figures that were spied upon

i believe what he said was that he was releasing the names of american citizens that were spied on
posted by p3on at 3:10 PM on June 19


pjern Teufelsberg is in the first story at least:

The easternmost NSA surveillance post in Europe during the Cold War was the Field Station Berlin, located on Teufelsberg (Devil's Mountain) in West Berlin. The hill is made from the rubble left over from World War II -- and the agents operating from its top were apparently extremely competent. They won the coveted Travis Trophy, awarded by the NSA each year to the best surveillance post worldwide, four times.

posted by bukvich at 3:13 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


at the behest of the NSA, and giving them all the data? What are we getting out of this? Or are all the secret rulers secretly connected and there really is an illuminati?

After abuses and outrages, democratic countries made it illegal for some of their spy groups to spy on their own citizens. So the spies in country A subvert these protections by paying the spies of country B to do their otherwise-illegal spying for them - to spy on the people in country A and pass the intel directly to the spies in country A, thus circumventing laws intended to stop agencies from spying on their own citizens.

The spies of country B have a similar problem of not being allowed to spy on their own citizens, so part of their payment for helping country A break the law is that spies for country A do similar dirty work for the spies in country B.

So yeah, it's backrubs, except it's the spies that get the backrubs, and the people that get the shaft.
posted by anonymisc at 3:25 PM on June 19 [11 favorites]


Meanwhile: Secret trade agreement covering 68 percent of world services published by WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks said in a statement. “The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.”
posted by adamvasco at 3:50 PM on June 19


Can someone please explain to me why the European Rulers are spying on their citizens at the behest of the NSA, and giving them all the data? What are we getting out of this? Or are all the secret rulers secretly connected and there really is an illuminati?

First of all, it seems that each country is making a (technically impossible, half-hearted and arguably disingenuous) effort to not spy on their own citizens. Every government (the US included) loudly proclaims that they are obeying the law and not applying the dragnet to their own citizens, only _other_ countries' citizens. But even if this mandate were technically followed, there's an easy way in which the US can and does get around it which is having every country spy on each other, and then collecting the amalgamated data. The result is that at least the US has as complete a picture of global network traffic as is possible.

But to get to the substance of your question about what the European rulers' motives are: as you might imagine, there are a bunch of opinions on this, but here is my take.

First, cooperation between governments is not unusual, and usually not secret. Collaboration on trade/monetary/economic policy, war/security/terrorism policy and diplomatic efforts are everyday occurrences. There are plenty of international bodies that coordinate this stuff out in the open: WTO, OECD, NATO, UN, NAFTA, etc.

Second, power disparities between states are often quite pronounced, and dominant states often use this gap to press their advantage. In particular, the US is the lone remaining superpower in the world, and often uses its muscle to bully around even those states that most consider allies of the US. The threats vary in explicitness and severity, but the general message is: "Don't fuck with the status quo, or else the powers that be will slap you down." Contemporary examples might include the US threatening Iran, Russia threatening Ukraine, Germany bullying close-to-defaulting EU member states, etc.

So, it's both the carrot and the stick. European leaders are collaborating with the US (slash effectively following (thinly?) veiled orders) so much that more collaboration seems like the natural thing to do. And if they don't feel like going along with the game plan, there might be consequences.

Ok, so this raises the question of why doesn't some enterprising politician ride a wave of national anger to oust the collaborationist leaders and roll back the surveillance program? There are a few reasons for this.

One is that the NSA et al basically have every kind of dirt on any potential political challenger, and everyone knows this. Would the NSA et al be beyond leaking (or fabricating?) defamatory information gained from its surveillance network about someone who wants to challenge its power?

Another is that, skullduggery aside, there are a lot of domestic vested interests committed to maintaining the surveillance relationship. This is the military-industrial complex / deep national security state of each of these countries, which is a powerful political force in its own right.

A final one: suppose someone did get elected to, say, the German presidency on the program of dismantling the relationship with the NSA. There would be two problems: 1) (back to the sticks) would the US take this lying down and not threaten some terrible consequence, effectively making an offer Germany couldn't refuse? 2) Many politicians claim that they don't know about the nature and extent of the secret surveillance work going on in their country -- and they're telling the truth! The ignorance maintains the politicians' plausible deniability, and protects the security state's continued operations. So it's a win-win as far as everyone in political power or the state bureaucracy is concerned.

And all of the above analysis assumes that the citizens care about surveillance enough to mobilize around the issue. So, there's that. Perhaps Europeans are fighting their own culture wars instead, and the rise of Golden Dawn et al seem a lot more threatening. But I'm not too educated on contemporary European politics, so that's totally ignorant speculation.

In sum, almost nobody in power wants to rock the boat, and various powerful vested interests continue to run important aspects of the world to the detriment of the vast majority of the world's people.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 3:53 PM on June 19 [11 favorites]


The hill is made from the rubble left over from World War II

Wikipedia on the location of Teufelsberg:

The curiousness begins with what is buried underneath the hill: the never completed Nazi military-technical college (Wehrtechnische Fakultät) designed by Albert Speer. The Allies tried using explosives to demolish the school, but it was so sturdy that covering it with debris turned out to be easier.

The covering of the college (to a depth of 300 feet!) was done, by hand, in the years immediately after the war. by an army of 60,000 "Trümmerfrauen " ("rubble women") using sacks and wheelbarrows. To get an idea of the magnitude of that task, look at this picture for a moment. Teufelsberg is in the upper-left corner of the picture on the horizon. Every fucking brick of which was carried out there by starving women.

I never went up that hill once without thinking about that.
posted by pjern at 4:35 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]


It's worth noting that the Germans have a specific negative history with state surveillance and extrajudicial killings (aka "murders"). If you ever visit Berlin be sure to go to the Topography of Terror museum, a phenomenally detailed historical account of SS and Stasi activities in Germany. Particularly chilling for its neutral depiction of the bureaucratic efficiency by which two German governments collected systemic information on citizens. The Stasi is still living memory for many Germans.
posted by Nelson at 4:54 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


each country is making a (technically impossible, half-hearted and arguably disingenuous) effort to not spy on their own citizens

It's really only "impossible" if you put a higher priority on gathering data than on following the law. It's actually pretty simple to successfully not spy on citizens. Even a hamster can do it. :) The impossibility appears when you're aiming to get ALL TEH INFOS on every last non-citizen.
posted by anonymisc at 4:58 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


The Stasi is still living memory for many Germans.

So is COINTELPRO in the living memory for many Americans. But here we are.
posted by Talez at 4:59 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Respectfully, the abuses of COINTELPRO aren't really comparable to the systemic surveillance of German citizens by the Stasi. I'm not saying COINTELPRO was OK, but it was at least somewhat narrowly targeted. The way the Stasi kept files on a huge portion of all citizens is a lot of the horror of it. The NSA's current abuses are closer to the Stasi's than the FBI's.
posted by Nelson at 5:04 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]


It's really only "impossible" if you put a higher priority on gathering data than on following the law. It's actually pretty simple to successfully not spy on citizens.

Yes, point taken, a country could just not set up a dragnet surveillance network and thereby not spy on its citizens.

My intent was to point out that a country can not both set up a dragnet surveillance network and ensure that none of its citizens' information is ever captured in it. So all politicians' protestations to the contrary are extremely suspect. There's no 'I am a citizen of your country!' bit that is set in the packets anyone captures.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:39 PM on June 19


The NSA's current abuses are closer to the Stasi's than the FBI's.

The Stasi turned almost the entire nation into a network of spies. Everybody and anybody was encouraged to turn "informer" and to provide specific information about the thoughts, habits, sayings, comings and goings of their neighbors. This information was accessible to Stasi agents and bosses without any kind of showing of due cause and was used to blackmail people, to punish people without access to judicial challenge and to coerce people to join the ranks of the informers. To try to pretend that the NSA collecting metadate on telephone calls and emails which they can only access in specific cases upon showing cause to the FISA court is comparable to what the Stasi did is just an absurd overdramatization and, frankly, an insult to the victims of the Stasi's oppression.
posted by yoink at 5:54 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


I think you guys are both grasping different parts of the elephant here.

The Stasi and the NSA are comparable in that their passive surveillance capabilities extend to cover a large portion of the citizenry.

The Stasi and the NSA are incomparable in that the Stasi's active operations (blackmailing, coercion, etc.) go far beyond what the NSA has been doing in that regard (planting a few people here and there at influential tech companies, breaking into lots of computers, subverting crypto standards).
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 6:06 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


The Stasi and the NSA are incomparable in that the Stasi's active operations (blackmailing, coercion, etc.) go far beyond what the NSA has been doing...

...so far, and have probably only shown that much restraint since they have much more sinister, insidious methods drawn up to get absolute control.
posted by milarepa at 6:37 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


So really, I have no interest in a pissing match comparing NSA, Stasi, and 60s-era FBI. They are all abusive examples of state surveillance and power. I apologize for making that a debate. My only point is that this NSA surveillance is particularly troublesome to many Germans specifically because of the Stasi history. And also the Nazi history, which is a recent memory of just how bad an abusive state can be if not quite as surveillance-based.

I'd wish that more Americans would remember COINTELPRO as well as example of how the NSA can be dangerous. 1970s CIA, too. One thing the current German state does very well is educate its citizens about the dangers of its past abuses. The US doesn't do that nearly as well, in part because we don't quite have a consensus that these ever are abuses.

I should stop talking though, and let actual Germans speak. I've only visited a few times.
posted by Nelson at 7:08 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


We need to start a MetaTalk for people to share their own made-up NSA program names. I bet I could laugh for hours with that.

Following the revelation of BULLRUN (in the US, run by the NSA) and EDGEHILL (in the UK, run by GCHQ), both programs ominously named after the first major battles of the US and UK Civil Wars, I proposed that the governments just save us the bother next time and go right to calling their next scheme COCKPUNCH.
posted by Asparagirl at 7:27 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


There is a big deal here beyond merely that the German people are victims of crimes committed by the NSA and BND, just like the American people, anonymisc. Germany uses proportional representation, which provides a limited measure of democracy, while America uses only the fig leaf of first-past-the-post, meaning America has no real democracy. Also the German people remember their own government's larger crimes against its own citizens, while the American people easily forget their politicians crimes. These revelations could actually influence elections in Germany, maybe making certain coalitions untenable, while the CIA's crimes against humanity, the NSA's spying, etc. impact U.S. politics relatively little.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:16 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


pjern: "the Hill."
That's, like, a giant dick, man.

Subtle.
posted by brokkr at 2:38 AM on June 20






Just on the topic of government secrecy :
USTR's Anti-Transparency Rules For TAFTA/TTIP Documents Published

posted by jeffburdges at 3:13 AM on June 20


These revelations could actually influence elections in Germany, maybe making certain coalitions untenable, while the CIA's crimes against humanity, the NSA's spying, etc. impact U.S. politics relatively little.

In defense of Americans, unlike the Stasi, the CIA's actions aren't done _to them_ and the NSA's actions, while now widely known, are invisible. It's not a couple guys in a government car ostentatiously shadowing you and your friends. COINTELPRO, admittedly, was an active program of political suppression against America's own population but, unlike the Stasi, 1) was targeted against a very limited segment of the population 2) was not known to exist at the time of its operations. Furthermore, while there has been much education in Germany about the Stasi's activities, most Americans probably couldn't tell you what the NSA was until last year, and highlighting oppressive clandestine government programs of any sort doesn't seem to be a priority in the American educational curriculum.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 7:54 AM on June 20




The covering of the college (to a depth of 300 feet!) was done, by hand, in the years immediately after the war. by an army of 60,000 "Trümmerfrauen " ("rubble women") using sacks and wheelbarrows.
pjern, that is well worth an FPP, IMO.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:54 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Also, can we agree that the Stasi, the NSA, and COINTELPRO are three different entities that share similarities, and yet are each different from the others, and focus instead on this FPP?

Because, YAY for more information about this outrage, and YAY for more people (outside the US, in this case) being given reason to care. People need to be outraged.

And the GOP-led House just voted to defund some of these activities - it feels dirty to cheer the GOP-led House for anything, but YAY them!
posted by IAmBroom at 10:57 AM on June 20


That's, like, a giant dick, man.

Subtle.


Yeah, we had running jokes about getting out a few gallons of purple paint and putting on some veins, etc.
posted by pjern at 12:00 PM on June 20


To try to pretend that the NSA collecting metadate on telephone calls and emails which they can only access in specific cases upon showing cause to the FISA court is comparable to what the Stasi did is just an absurd overdramatization and, frankly, an insult to the victims of the Stasi's oppression.

I think the absurdity here is pretending that the NSA goes to FISA (by all accounts an unacountable and secret court) every time they want to look something up.

Back to the FPP though: Good for Germany. I'm not up on German politics at all, but pulling an opinion out of my ass I'd be willing to bet Merkel is gone after the next election, whenever that is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:15 PM on June 20


The problem of industrialised surveillance is that it manufactures threats.
posted by vicx at 11:58 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


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