• Germany's news in English

Seven things Germany should ask the NSA

Ben Knight · 21 Nov 2013, 14:20

Published: 21 Nov 2013 14:20 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich was forced to endure howls of mockery from the opposition on Monday during a special debate in the German parliament on the activities of the NSA.

Having returned empty-handed from a trip to Washington during the summer, following the initial revelations about the NSA operations against German citizens' data, Friedrich stuck to an old argument - that the most important thing was maintaining good relations with the US.

The main problem, he told the German parliament, was not that the US secret services were spying on the German people, but that Washington was keeping quiet. “Unfortunately the reticence of our American partners leads to conspiracy theories,” he said.

Several opposition members of parliament could not even wait for the end of his speech to unleash their scorn: “Even the #SPD is laughing,” tweeted the Green party’s Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, referring to the centre-left Social Democrats, expected to form the next coalition government with Friedrich’s conservatives.

Friedrich said it was time for “the Americans to explain.” But what questions have been left unanswered? Here is the Local’s list of seven questions that Friedrich should ask the US government. And hopefully they will be a little more searching than the ones he asked during the summer.

1) To what extent is Germany’s internet traffic still being trawled by the NSA?

While President Barack Obama has since assured Chancellor Angela Merkel that her own mobile phone is not being spied on (at the moment), no such assurances have been made about the mass collection of emails sent across the Atlantic.

2) If Snowden was brought to Germany, would the US demand his extradition?

As Green Party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele said in the debate on Monday, “If Edward Snowden is not a classic state witness then I don’t know what a state witness is.” When Ströbele visited Snowden in Moscow in late October, the veteran politician said the former NSA contractor had expert knowledge of the documents he leaked, but at the moment he cannot be brought to Germany to testify to an investigative committee because he cannot be guaranteed asylum before making the trip.

3) What can the US offer Germany to make up for the spy claims?

Washington has briefed that Secretary of State John Kerry will take a trip to Germany as soon as the new government is in office to patch up the diplomatic damage caused by the Snowden revelations. But will he make any concrete proposals?

4) Would the mooted “no spy deal” be worth the paper it is written on?

The heads of Germany’s secret services – the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) and the Verfassungsschutz – met the head of the NSA in early November to discuss whether they would agree a pact to not spy on each other’s governments. But could such a deal be taken seriously by either side given that the Snowden documents reveal that the German intelligence agencies have used information gleaned from NSA programmes?

5) Is there any point in the German government encrypting its communications data?

The NSA can now crack much of the encryption technology on the internet, so what is the point of it? Will they continue to spy on German politicians by trying to crack the latest software being put on their mobile phones?

6) Will the NSA stop circumventing US law by using European servers?

Many of the NSA’s programmes play jurisdictional games to circumvent US laws by hacking into Google and Yahoo data centres outside US territory to spy on US citizens. A change in US law could put a stop to this.

7) Why would the NSA and Britain's GCHQ need to know the hotel reservations of German government diplomats and delegations around the world?

According to Der Spiegel magazine, British intelligence agency GCHQ has been running a top secret programme called “Royal Concierge” to keep tabs on hotel reservations of government representatives, apparently in order to bug hotel rooms in advance.

READ MORE: German politicians' phones to be encrypted

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Ben Knight (ben.knight@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd