Monday, July 8, 2013

The Black Channel Thinks It Knows What Germans Think About Total Surveillance

Spiegel columnist Jan Fleischhauer - whose weekly articles are published under the name "Der schwarze Kanal" (the black channel) translated last weeks piece and published it on zero hedge under the name "What Germany Thinks Of 'The Biggest Bugging Scandal In History". Black is the color of Merkels party the CDU and its Bavarian sister the CSU. But one actually does not even get the view of those two parties in the column. 

The conservative parties are divided on the issue: while  Federal Minister of the Interior Friedrich (CSU) is all for foreign governments collecting data on basically all German conversations, his party leader Seehofer said that German politicians should "use all chances for a rigid and strict protection of privacy." let's step back a little: in 2007 CDU, CSU, and SPD pushed through a law  to collect all meta data for six months from every German. The only institution in Germany that has any interests in protecting constitutional rights, the Federal Constitutional Court, struck down that law in 2010. We actually still have to get a such a  law to collect all meta data, because the EU, just like the CDU/CSU, is obviously scared of European/German citizens and to that end issued a directive (let's call it the data mining directive) to do so. Of course, in order to pretend that there is a rule of law the data could only be retrieved if a court, agreed.  We all now know how that went with FISC in the US. Anyways, Seehofer now seems to be moving away from the total data mining idea. FinMin Schäuble, who failed miserably at stopping right wing terror while he was minister of the interior (a man of many talents, I guess), claimed that we were "in part able to prevent acts of terror in Germany due to information from America" and argued against getting "agitated too early" (in what can only be understood as a warning that there is more to come).  The CSU "Mittelstandsunion" (small firms union) feared that the NSA is possibly conducting industrial espionage in Germany. But of course there is no division on the issue that CDU/CSU do not like to be watched by "Big Brother" themselves. Even the former socialist youth secretary for agitation and propaganda in the Stasi state, Frau Merkel had her spokesperson say on that issue that we aren't in the cold war anymore. Of course there was *crickets* from Merkel on the matter of constitutional rights of citizens.

The SPD was six years ago also a big fan of destroying constitutional rights. Today there seems to be no party official that is happy with the spying of the US. For example, the party leader of the SPD, Germany's second biggest and formerly left wing party, Gabriel, not only claimed that Merkel knew, to which a spokesperson said that that is "cynical" (IMO implying that the SPD leadership was also informed), he also wanted to allow Snowden to come to Germany under a witness protection program. The Greens are very much on the side of the SPD on the issue.

What comes as a surprise to me is that there seem to be some remnants of actual liberalism left in the FDP in the person of the Federal Minister of Justice Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. The party "The Pirates" (not making this up) is the one which will profit the most from the revelations. It has been in self-destruct mode for years now, but it is the only party that actually really cares about citizen rights and freedom off- and online. It seemed unlikely that it could make the 5 % hurdle only a few weeks ago, but the more people like Merkel talk about the Internet being virgin territory for everybody and defend spying by foreign entities on German citizens, the higher the chances for them to be part of the next Bundestag.The euro skeptical party AfD reminded Merkel "that she has to not only act in the interest of the government, but also for the whole German population" because she did not say a word about citizens being spied on.

The German industry is deeply worried that the USA is under the guise of preventing terror conducting industrial espionage. The VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau - German Engineering Federation) manager for product and know-how protection Rainer Glantz said that "specially the focus [of the  spying] on the West and the South of Germany, where many hidden champions are located, raises the concern, that targeted industrial espionage is being conducted."

In the media there seems to be - except for that one poor Spiegel columnist above, who had to pretend that he actually fears terror in Germany and the Welt, who is still actually buying that terrorism story and getting ripped apart by their own commenters for it - pretty much universal criticism of the program led of course by Spiegel, even Bild, hard right tabloid and biggest "newspaper" in Europe, asked: "Is the NSA really worse than the Stasi?"  and had an "expert" conclude: YES!

A new poll asked if Germans see the USA as trustworthy partner. 49 % agreed down from 65 %. The lowest result since Bush left office. The backlash in Germany is so large that, even if the US ever really captured a terrorist through prism, the country has to expect higher losses than gain from the program. With less than half of the Germans believing that the USA is a trustworthy partner, one can expect that this will actually affect US companies, too. In a few months, one will have the choice to either invite total NSA surveillance into ones home or buy the Sony PS4 if one wants a new console, for example. The X-Box One sales can be expected to be hit very hard because of this. Really, Microsoft is a collaborator and the only way this ends is if their revenue is hit hard. Choosing the PS4 over the largely similar X-Box One is the obvious choice if one does not want an always-on camera and microphone in one's living room. Moving away from Windows and using Linux based operation systems is a must for all German companies since MS informed the NSA about security bugs before patching them.

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