Germany’s parliament approves espionage law, prompts protest

October 21, 2016 9:00 pm
’s parliament has approved a controversial law that Berlin says will tighten oversight of the BND spy agency amid criticism that the legislation violates the right to privacy.
On Friday, the lawmakers voted for the law, which will provide the foreign intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst, commonly known by its acronym BND, with more powers.
Under the new law, the BND will be allowed to monitor communications of foreign entities and individuals on the German territory and abroad that pass through a main internet exchange point in the city of Frankfurt.
The law will also enable the BND to conduct “early interception of dangers.” The German spy agency was previously limited to fighting crimes, terrorism and cyber attacks.
The German government defends the law.
“How do we want to find terror suspects? How do we want to detect them if not through those means?” said Clemens Binninger, a lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party.
The BND was banned from spying on Germans but critics say the new law also enables the agency to monitor German citizens, including journalists, lawyers, whistle-blowers and activists.
The BND now can intercept all internet traffic. The agency was previously allowed to monitor up to 20 percent of traffic at one exchange point.
The approval prompts protest in Berlin
The Green Party has threatened to file a petition with the highest court of Germany as well as the European Court of Justice against the law.
“Our constitution, basic and human rights laws are not an obstacle to the fight against terrorism,” said Konstantin von Notz, a Green Party lawmaker.
In a show of discontent with the controversial law, the so-called digitalcourage association organized a demonstration in the capital Berlin on Friday.
Protesters held signs that read, “I am not an ID number,” “Go home, [intelligence] service,” and “The NSA scandal is meant to be a lesson, not a role model.”
The BND has been hit by a series of scandals, including its cooperation with the US National Security Agency (NSA) to carry out espionage activities targeting high-ranking European officials.
On April 30, 2015, a report surfaced that the BND had helped the NSA conduct “political espionage” on high-ranking French officials and the European Commission.
The newly approved law will prevent the BND from spying on EU countries except in certain cases such as suspicion of a terrorist activity against Germany’s security. It will also ban the BND from engaging in industrial espionage.
It also calls for establishing a new panel comprising the head of the BND, the chancellor’s office and an independent panel of judges to approve strategic foreign espionage activities.
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