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Snowden’s Ride, Part 4: The Underground Reich and U.S. Internet, Media Business


Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

COMMENT: We’ve cov­ered Eddie “The Friend­ly Spook” Snow­den’s exploits in numer­ous pre­vi­ous posts: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII, Part VIIIPart IX, Part X.) Users of this web­site are emphat­i­cal­ly encour­aged to exam­ine these posts in detail, as it is impos­si­ble to do jus­tice to the argu­ments in those arti­cles in the scope of this post.

Suf­fice it to say, for our pur­pos­es here, that Snow­den’s activ­i­ties are–quite obviously–an intel­li­gence oper­a­tion direct­ed at Barack Oba­ma’s admin­is­tra­tion at one lev­el and the Unit­ed States and U.K. at anoth­er.

We note that the indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions involved with Snow­den, as well as Fast Eddie him­self, track back to the far right and ele­ments and indi­vid­u­als involved with the Under­ground Reich. Again, PLEASE exam­ine the pre­vi­ous posts on the sub­ject, as there is no way to flesh out this line of inquiry in this post. 

We have not­ed that Fast Eddie may be dou­bling for BND or some oth­er ele­ment of Ger­man intel­li­gence, pos­si­bly hav­ing been recruit­ed when post­ed by CIA to Gene­va, Switzer­land. Snow­den may also be act­ing at the instruc­tion of ele­ments in U.S.–perhaps Michael Mor­rell, per­haps an Under­ground Reich fac­tion of NSA, per­haps ele­ments from the Peter Thiel milieu (more about that below.)

A pos­si­bil­i­ty that bears exam­i­na­tion in the con­text of Ger­man and/or Under­ground Reich eco­nom­ic war­fare against the U.S. involves L’Af­faire Snow­den as a gam­bit to under­mine Amer­i­can inter­net dom­i­nance. In that con­text, we offer the fol­low­ing thoughts:

  • Ger­many’s inte­ri­or min­istry has urged Ger­mans not to use U.S. inter­net servers. (See text excerpt below.) Will this set the stage for Ger­many to usurp some or most of U.S. inter­net dom­i­nance in the world?
  • The Frank­furt DE-CIX exchange is the busiest in the world and is said–by Ger­man secu­ri­ty experts–to be imper­vi­ous to NSA/GCHQ  spy­ing efforts, despite Snow­den’s alle­ga­tions that NSA has pen­e­trat­ed the func­tion.   (See text excerpt below.) Will this lead cor­po­rate inter­net func­tions away from U.S. inter­net com­pa­nies? Might Ger­man con­cern about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of NSA/GCHQ pen­e­tra­tion of the Frank­furt exchange be relat­ed to the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work’s con­trol of cor­po­rate Ger­many?
  • Latin Amer­i­can spy­ing by NSA has also been placed on the table by Snow­den. (See text excerpt below.) Will this also dam­age U.S. inter­net busi­ness and help Ger­many usurp some, or all, of U.S. inter­net busi­ness.
  • Per­haps reflect­ing con­cern over dam­age to its busi­ness as a result of the Snow­den’s ride, Yahoo has asked that its objec­tions to fed­er­al requests for data be made pub­lic. (See text excerpt below.)
  • In a high­ly spec­u­la­tive mode, we note that Sheryl Sand­berg, a for­mer Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial and Face­book exec­u­tive, was sup­posed to be on the Asiana Air­line flight that crashed in San Fran­cis­co. (See text excerpt below.) In increas­ing­ly high-tech air­craft, the high­ly-devel­oped art of sab­o­tag­ing planes has moved up a notch, so to speak. Might have an Oba­ma-cir­cle indi­vid­ual in the Face­book mix have proved trou­ble­some to the Under­ground Reich?
  • In that same con­text, we won­der if Face­book finan­cial angel and Ger­man-born fas­cist Peter Thiel might have some­thing to do with the line of inquiry we are explor­ing? Thiel fig­ures promi­nent­ly in our past posts.
  • We have also not­ed that Fast Eddie has joined forces with the “Cyber-Wan­der­vo­gel” of the Wik­iLeaks milieu. That milieu includes the Pirate Bay crowd–dedicated to “pirat­ing” online prod­uct. Might an intent of the high­er-ups in that orga­ni­za­tion be to dam­age U.S. eco­nom­ic inter­ests by steal­ing movies and music? (The bulk of the Pirate Bay folks appear to be of “anarchic/Utopian” polit­i­cal bent and can­not be pre­sumed to be con­scious acces­sories to such activ­i­ties.
  • We note that Peter Sunde, a prin­ci­pal fig­ure in the Pirate Bay/Pirate Party/Wikileaks milieu went to that posi­tion from a job with Siemens, inex­tri­ca­bly linked with BND and the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work. He resides in Ger­many.
  • We also won­der if Kim Schmitz, aka “Kim Dot­com” might be part of an Under­ground Reich eco­nom­ic offen­sive against U.S. media com­pa­nies?

Shun U.S. Web Ser­vices, Top Ger­man Min­is­ter Urges Pri­va­cy-Mind­ed Cit­i­zens” by David Mey­er; Gigaom; 7/3/2013.

EXCERPT: Germany’s inte­ri­or min­is­ter has sug­gest­ed that peo­ple should stop using Google and Face­book if they fear inter­cep­tion by U.S. spies.

Accord­ing to the AP, Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Wednes­day that “who­ev­er fears their com­mu­ni­ca­tion is being inter­cept­ed in any way should use ser­vices that don’t go through Amer­i­can servers.” His call comes in the wake of Edward Snowden’s PRISM rev­e­la­tions, which showed how the NSA can eas­i­ly access even sup­pos­ed­ly pri­vate data on U.S. cloud ser­vices, at mass scale.

Friedrich is one of the first senior Euro­pean politi­cians to explic­it­ly urge pri­va­cy-mind­ed cit­i­zens to avoid using U.S. ser­vices, although EU Dig­i­tal Agen­da Com­mis­sion­er Neel­ie Kroes said a cou­ple of weeks ago that “the PRISM debate will def­i­nite­ly increase calls for a Euro­pean cloud, with a range of pos­si­ble con­se­quences for Amer­i­can com­pa­nies.”

How­ev­er, shun­ning Google and Face­book may not be a cure-all for keep­ing pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions pri­vate. Snow­den also exposed a British pro­gram called Tem­po­ra, which alleged­ly involves the tap­ping of the fiber-optic cables that con­sti­tute the back­bone of the inter­net – if that is the case, then all com­mu­ni­ca­tions may be inter­cept­ed, regard­less of where the ser­vice provider is locat­ed.

Ger­man data pro­tec­tion offi­cials have urged the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to “do every­thing to pro­tect the peo­ple in Ger­many against access to their data by third par­ties,” and have also called for expla­na­tions around how much the Ger­man gov­ern­ment knew about PRISM and Tem­po­ra before the scan­dal broke. . . .

“Spy­ing Ques­tions Emerge over Frankfurt’s Data Hub” by Chris Bryant;  The Finan­cial Times; 7/4/2013.

EXCERPT: Adja­cent to the riv­er Main docks in the east of Frank­furt, not far from where the new head­quar­ters of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank are near­ing com­ple­tion, inter­net traf­fic from around the globe con­verges at an exchange.

In an unas­sum­ing ware­house ringed by 4m-high fences and secu­rity cam­eras, data hops from one net­work to anoth­er via switch­ing points con­tained in large cab­i­nets full of blink­ing LED lights and yel­low fibre optic cables.

The process is not unlike the way air­lines use near­by Frank­furt air­port so their pas­sen­gers can change air­craft.

Thanks to Frankfurt’s geo­graph­i­cal posi­tion link­ing east and west and the pres­ence of a large finan­cial cen­tre, more inter­net data pass­es through the Frank­furt DE-CIX exchange each day than at any oth­er switch­ing point in the world; some 2.5 ter­abits per sec­ond at peak times.

This is even more than rival inter­net exchanges in Lon­don and Ams­ter­dam. Par­ti­san Ger­man media there­fore pro­claim Frank­furt the “glob­al cap­i­tal of the inter­net”.

But this week Der Spiegel mag­a­zine obtained doc­u­ments from Edward Snow­den, the intel­li­gence con­trac­tor turned whistle­blower, which sug­gested the US Nation­al Secu­rity Agency has gained access to the Frank­furt hub’s gar­gan­tuan data stream. The mag­a­zine did not say how the NSA had achieved this.

Insid­ers con­firmed to Spiegel that the NSA’s inter­est is in the traf­fic that arrives at Frank­furt and oth­er exchanges in south­ern Ger­many from east­ern Europe and Rus­sia, as well as the Mid­dle East.

The mag­a­zine report­ed that since Decem­ber the NSA has obtained around 500m com­mu­ni­ca­tions meta­data a month from Ger­many as part of its Bound­less Infor­mant spy­ing pro­gramme, far more than it obtained in France or Italy.

Amid sim­i­lar claims that Britain’s GCHQ spy agency is also har­vest­ing data from sub­sea fibre optic cables these reports sug­gest the phys­i­cal infra­struc­ture that makes up the inter­net is a high-val­ue tar­get for glob­al intel­li­gence agen­cies.

Frankfurt’s huge inter­net hub like­ly explains why on an NSA “heat map” obtained by the Guardian news­pa­per, Ger­many is the only Euro­pean coun­try marked yel­low – indi­cat­ing a high lev­el of sur­veil­lance.

Although Ger­many and the US co-oper­ate exten­sively on intel­li­gence mat­ters, the part­ner­ship is not as deep as that between the US and UK. Ger­many is clas­si­fied by the US as a “third-class” part­ner and there­fore sub­ject to pos­si­ble sur­veil­lance.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, Ger­man inte­rior min­is­ter, said Ger­man author­i­ties had found no evi­dence of NSA sur­veil­lance at the Frank­furt site. Still, he added: “If a for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice were to tap inter­net nodes in Frank­furt it would be a vio­la­tion of our sov­er­eign­ty.”

Ger­man busi­ness is also alarmed about the pos­si­bil­ity that the country’s trea­sured indus­trial secrets could find their way into US hands. [Infor­ma­tion about the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work, possibly?–D.E.]

Ste­fan Mair, at the Fed­er­a­tion of Ger­man Indus­try (BDI), said media reports about US sur­veil­lance were “con­cern­ing” but “at the moment we don’t know to what degree Ger­man com­pa­nies are affect­ed by the NSA activ­i­ties”.

US Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma tried to allay some of these fears in a call with Angela Merkel, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, on Wednes­day say­ing he “takes seri­ously the con­cerns of our Euro­pean allies and part­ners”. For her part, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor con­ceded ear­lier this week that har­ness­ing online intel­li­gence is impor­tant in the fight against ter­ror­ism.

Indeed, the BND, Germany’s for­eign intel­li­gence agency, is per­mit­ted by law to sieve through up to 20 per cent of the country’s inter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tions. It does this by search­ing for hun­dreds of sus­pi­cious terms relat­ed to the traf­fick­ing of drugs, arms and peo­ple, mon­ey laun­der­ing and ter­ror­ism.

How­ever, due to tech­ni­cal and finan­cial lim­i­ta­tions Ger­many cur­rently scans about 5 per cent of the inter­net traf­fic cross­ing its ter­ri­tory, gov­ern­ment offi­cials say.

It is not known if the BND has installed mon­i­tor­ing equip­ment at the Frank­furt exchange and Ger­man law pro­hibits the exchange’s oper­a­tors from com­ment­ing on the mat­ter.

But the own­ers and oper­a­tors of DE-CIX are allowed to talk about for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vices and they are adamant that the NSA and oth­ers are not tap­ping its exchange. “If a for­eign intel­li­gence agency was har­vest­ing data from our exchange then we would know about it,” says Arnold Nip­per, founder and chief tech­nol­ogy offi­cer. “Our tech­ni­cians are on site every day; if some­one put in a cable we would see.”

Andrew Blum, author of Tubes, a book about the infra­struc­ture of the inter­net, is also puz­zled by the Spiegel claims. “Say­ing the NSA is tap­ping all of DE-CIX is like say­ing the FBI is some­how search­ing every sin­gle pas­sen­ger that pass­es through Frank­furt airport?.?.?.?Having seen the place up close I’m very scep­ti­cal of the notion of whole­sale tap­ping,” he says.

That is because a spy agency would have to pen­e­trate not one, but hun­dreds of fibre optic cables at mul­ti­ple sites. In addi­tion, a big chunk of traf­fic is exchanged not via the Frank­furt hub but bilat­er­ally between tech com­pa­nies which rent data cen­tre space near the node, in a process known as peer­ing. Seiz­ing all of this would be a mam­moth and con­spic­u­ous task, Mr Nip­per of DE-CIX says. . . .

“Report: U.S. Spy­ing Eyes Ener­gy Info in Latin Amer­ica” [AP]; USA Today; 7/9/2013.

EXCERPT: A U.S. spy pro­gram is wide­ly tar­get­ing data in emails and tele­phone calls across Latin Amer­ica, and is focus­ing on ener­gy issues, not just infor­ma­tion relat­ed to mil­i­tary, polit­i­cal or ter­ror top­ics, a Brazil­ian news­pa­per report­ed Tues­day.

The O Globo news­pa­per said it has access to some of the doc­u­ments released by Nation­al Secu­rity Agency leak­er Edward Snow­den. The Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist who obtained the clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion from Snow­den lives in Brazil and is help­ing write sto­ries for the dai­ly.

O Globo pub­lished what it said are slides that Snow­den released indi­cat­ing the U.S. effort is gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion on ener­gy in Mex­ico and oil in Venezuela. There was no infor­ma­tion released about what infor­ma­tion was obtained, nor any com­pa­nies that were tar­get­ed.

The report also said that Colom­bia, the strongest U.S. mil­i­tary ally in South Amer­ica, along with Mex­ico and Brazil, were the coun­tries where the U.S. pro­gram inter­cepted the biggest chunks of infor­ma­tion on emails and tele­phone calls dur­ing the last five years. Sim­i­lar activ­i­ties took place in Argenti­na and Ecuador, among oth­ers.

Fig­ures weren’t pub­lished on how many inter­cepts occurred.

O Globo also report­ed that the doc­u­ments it’s seen indi­cate the U.S. had data col­lec­tion cen­ters in 2002 for mate­r­ial inter­cepted from satel­lites in Bogo­ta, Cara­cas, Mex­ico City and Pana­ma City, along with Brasil­ia. There was no infor­ma­tion pub­lished about the exis­tence of these cen­ters after 2002.

Snowden’s dis­clo­sures indi­cate that the NSA wide­ly col­lects phone and Inter­net “meta­data” — logs of mes­sage times, address­es and oth­er infor­ma­tion rather than the con­tent of the mes­sages. The doc­u­ments have indi­cated that the NSA has been col­lect­ing the phone records of hun­dreds of mil­lions of U.S. phone cus­tomers, and has gath­ered data on phone and Inter­net usage out­side the U.S., includ­ing those peo­ple who use any of nine U.S.-based inter­net providers such as Google.

Ear­lier, O Globo report­ed that in Brazil, the NSA col­lected data through an asso­ci­a­tion between U.S. and Brazil­ian telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies. It said it could not ver­ify which Brazil­ian com­pa­nies were involved or if they were even aware their links were being used to col­lect the data.

The Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment is inves­ti­gat­ing the alleged links with telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions firms with a Brazil pres­ence. . . .

“Yahoo Wants Files Unsealed” by Bran­don Bai­ley; San Jose Mer­cury News; 7/11/2013.

EXCERPT: In a rare legal move, Yahoo is ask­ing a secre­tive U.S. sur­veil­lance court to let the pub­lic see its argu­ments in a 2008 case that played an impor­tant role in per­suad­ing tech com­pa­nies to coop­er­ate with a con­tro­ver­sial gov­ern­ment data-gath­er­ing effort.
Releas­ing those files would demon­strate that Yahoo “object­ed stren­u­ous­ly” to gov­ern­ment demands for cus­tomers’ infor­ma­tion and would also help the pub­lic under­stand how sur­veil­lance pro­grams are approved under fed­er­al law, the com­pa­ny argued in a fil­ing with the For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court this week. . . .

 “Sheryl Sand­berg Switched From Crashed Asiana Air­lines Flight” by Gillian Mohney; ABC News; 7/6/2013.

EXCERPT: Face­book exec­u­tive Sheryl Sand­berg was sched­uled to be on the Asiana Air­lines flight that crash land­ed at San Fran­cis­co Inter­na­tion­al Air­port today but changed her plans at the last minute.

Sand­berg, author of the best-sell­ing “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” post­ed a note on her Face­book wall explain­ing that she was “tak­ing a minute to be thank­ful” after hear­ing that the flight had crashed.

“[We] were orig­i­nal­ly going to take the Asiana flight that just crash-land­ed,” Sand­berg wrote. “We switched to Unit­ed so we could use miles for my family’s tick­ets.” . . . .


3 comments for “Snowden’s Ride, Part 4: The Underground Reich and U.S. Internet, Media Business”

  1. And now Green­wald is pass­ing along a threat by Snow­den that the “intel­li­gence bomb” of doc­u­ments that Snow­den has encrypt­ed and dis­trib­uted to indi­v­d­u­als around the world (to be released should some­thing hap­pen to him). Accord­ing to Green­wald, release of those doc­u­ments would be the US’s “worst night­mare”:

    Green­wald: Snow­den Intel Bomb Will Go Off If ‘Some­thing Hap­pens’ To Him

    Bri­an Beut­ler 2:06 PM EDT, Sat­ur­day July 13, 2013

    Glenn Green­wald, the Guardian writer who cul­ti­vat­ed Edward Snow­den as a source and has bro­ken numer­ous sto­ries about the nature and extent of secret U.S. sur­veil­lance pro­grams, says harm­ful nation­al secu­ri­ty infor­ma­tion will be released auto­mat­i­cal­ly if “some­thing hap­pens” to the noto­ri­ous NSA leak­er.

    “Snow­den has enough infor­ma­tion to cause harm to the U.S. gov­ern­ment in a sin­gle minute than any oth­er per­son has ever had,” Green­wald said in an inter­view with the Argen­tinean paper La Nacion. “The U.S. gov­ern­ment should be on its knees every day beg­ging that noth­ing hap­pen to Snow­den, because if some­thing does hap­pen to him, all the infor­ma­tion will be revealed and it could be its worst night­mare.”

    It’s the most explic­it con­fir­ma­tion yet that among the doc­u­ments Snow­den sneaked out of the NSA are some that could harm the U.S. and that these are being used as lever­age against the Unit­ed States as the gov­ern­ment seeks his arrest and extra­di­tion. It’s unclear what actions would trig­ger such an indis­crim­i­nate, mass leak, and who would autho­rize or exe­cute it.

    Note that Green­wald is dis­put­ing the Reuters report­ing on this. The par­tic­u­lar quote about Snow­den’s intent in the reuters arti­cle is:

    “Snow­den has enough infor­ma­tion to cause harm to the U.S. gov­ern­ment in a sin­gle minute than any oth­er per­son has ever had,” Green­wald said in an inter­view in Rio de Janeiro with the Argen­tinean dai­ly La Nacion.

    “The U.S. gov­ern­ment should be on its knees every day beg­ging that noth­ing hap­pen to Snow­den, because if some­thing does hap­pen to him, all the infor­ma­tion will be revealed and it could be its worst night­mare.”

    But, as Green­wald points out, in the orig­i­nal span­ish-lan­guage arti­cle (trans­lat­ed here), the full quote is:

    “Q: Beyond the rev­e­la­tions about the spy­ing sys­tem per­for­mance in gen­er­al, what extra infor­ma­tion has Snow­den?

    “A: Snow­den has enough infor­ma­tion to cause more dam­age to the US gov­ern­ment in a minute alone than any­one else has ever had in the his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States. But that’s not his goal. [His] objec­tive is to expose soft­ware that peo­ple around the world use with­out know­ing what they are expos­ing them­selves with­out con­scious­ly agree­ing to sur­ren­der their rights to pri­va­cy. [He] has a huge num­ber of doc­u­ments that would be very harm­ful to the US gov­ern­ment if they were made pub­lic.”

    So, it appears that one of Snow­den’s explic­it goals real­ly is to encour­age a shift away from soft­ware and web ser­vices that are part of the NSA/UK sur­veil­lance pro­gram, which hap­pens to be almost all of the major social media tools and major web­ser­vices (Lavabit should be hav­ing good year). While it’s nice to think that maybe there could be a use­ful and mean­ing­ful inter­na­tion­al dialague on dig­i­tal pri­va­cy that emerges from this whole affair and a new glob­al age of enlight­en­ment where nation’s dis­arm and dis­band mass-intel­li­gence gath­er­ing, it’s look­ing more and more like the like­li­est long-term impact is going to a shift of inter­na­tion­al busi­ness away from US soft­ware and web ser­vices (it would­n’t be so bad if Face­book went away ). If it shifts to places like Ger­many, there will still be mass spy­ing, but it will just be the BND doing it instead. And then there’s the pos­si­bil­i­ty that we’ll see a shift towards more busi­ness­es using the ser­vices offered in places like Swe­den with alleged­ly strong pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions. Inter­na­tion­al busi­ness pri­va­cy con­cerns could shift from NSA-spy­ing hys­te­ria to some­thing much weird­er if that hap­pens.

    You also have to won­der how this entire set of dis­clo­sures is going to impact the use of social media in any upcom­ing “[insert coun­try of region] Springs”. Was the glob­al pub­lic unaware that Face­book and twit­ter are owned by spy­mas­ters and mon­archs? If so, they may not be unaware any­more. The social media tools used by the pissed off glob­al youth for orga­niz­ing pur­pos­es might be chang­ing in the future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 13, 2013, 5:32 pm
  2. Maybe this is a very sim­plis­tic com­ment but in it’s essence fas­cism is cor­po­ratism so I ask myself: “How are cor­po­ra­tions ben­e­fit­ing from the Snow­den affair? Well, since Snow­den came out with his “shock­ing rev­e­la­tions” I’ve noticed sev­er­al com­pa­nies such as Start­page mail are start­ing to appear on the inter­net:


    Kather­ine Albrecht, head of U.S. Media Rela­tions for Ixquick has already been on sev­er­al alter­na­tive news pro­grams pro­mot­ing this new email ser­vice which will be com­plete­ly pri­vate but as Albrecht her­self has said: “You get what you pay for!” In oth­er words, it won’t be free! I won­der how many mil­lions of dol­lars cor­po­ra­tions will make from all of these so called pri­vate email, encryp­tion sys­tems and anti-spy­ware prod­ucts.

    It’s so easy to manip­u­late the mass­es! All you need is one wolf to bark and the herd of sheep will go run­ning to the safe­ty of their enclo­sure. So what if it costs only 5 or 10 USD a month! A small price to pay for safe­ty and/or pri­va­cy right? Not real­ly!… Because the NSA does­n’t need to hack direct­ly into a per­son­’s email account to obtain all the infor­ma­tion it needs. William Bin­ney, the NSA math­e­mati­cian and cryp­tol­o­gist who devel­oped the algo­rithm to extract infor­ma­tion of all com­mu­ni­ca­tions while in tran­sit explains how it’s done in these two videos:


    They’re a bit long and tech­ni­cal but well worth watch­ing.

    There’s also anoth­er impor­tant aspect in this Snow­den affair, at least in my view. If you want peo­ple to stop talk­ing to each oth­er just tell them you’re eaves­drop­ping and this will imme­di­ate­ly squelch any kind of mean­ing­ful polit­i­cal dis­course among indi­vid­u­als which could even­tu­al­ly lead to an effec­tive polit­i­cal force. You don’t need to silence them. They will silence them­selves. That’s why FDR said: “There’s noth­ing to fear but fear itself.”

    Posted by Shibusa | July 14, 2013, 8:13 am
  3. Der Spiegel has anoth­er report on the BND and the NSA. The ques­tion of “what did she know and when did she know it” looks like it will only could become an impor­tant elec­tion issue. It also looks like the gen­er­al ques­tion of “who, if any­one, in the Ger­many gov­ern­ment has over­sight of its intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty” might also become a ques­tion of the day:

    Der Spiegel
    ‘Key Part­ners’: The Secret Link Between Ger­many and the NSA
    Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel has repeat­ed­ly said she knew noth­ing about Amer­i­can sur­veil­lance activ­i­ties in Ger­many. But doc­u­ments seen by SPIEGEL show that Ger­man intel­li­gence coop­er­ates close­ly with the NSA and even uses spy soft­ware pro­vid­ed by the US.

    July 22, 2013 – 12:19 PM

    It was a busy two days for the sur­veil­lance spe­cial­ists of the Bun­desnachrich­t­en­di­enst (BND), Ger­many’s for­eign intel­li­gence agency. At the end of April, a team of 12 senior BND offi­cials flew to the Unit­ed States, where they vis­it­ed the heart of the glob­al Amer­i­can sur­veil­lance empire: the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency (NSA). The pur­pose of their mis­sion can be read in a “top secret” NSA doc­u­ment which SPIEGEL has seen — one of the trove of files in the pos­ses­sion of whistle­blow­er Edward Snow­den.

    Accord­ing to the doc­u­ment, BND Pres­i­dent Ger­hard Schindler repeat­ed­ly expressed an “eager­ness” to coop­er­ate more close­ly with the NSA. The Ger­mans, the doc­u­ment reads, were look­ing for “guid­ance and advice.”

    Their wish was ful­filled. Senior employ­ees with the NSA’s For­eign Affairs Direc­torate were assigned to look after the Ger­man del­e­ga­tion. The Amer­i­cans orga­nized a “strate­gic plan­ning con­fer­ence” to bring their Ger­man part­ners up to speed. In the after­noon, fol­low­ing sev­er­al pre­sen­ta­tions on cur­rent meth­ods of data acqui­si­tion, senior mem­bers of a divi­sion known as Spe­cial Source Oper­a­tions, or SSO, spoke to their Ger­man guests. The SSO, one of the most secre­tive groups with­in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, is the divi­sion that forms alliances with US com­pa­nies, espe­cial­ly in the IT sec­tor, for data min­ing pur­pos­es. Snow­den describes this elite unit as the NSA’s “crown jew­els”.

    The jour­ney to Wash­ing­ton was­n’t the first edu­ca­tion­al trip by Ger­man intel­li­gence offi­cials across the Atlantic this spring — nor was it the last. Doc­u­ments from Snow­den that SPIEGEL has seen show that coop­er­a­tion between Berlin and Wash­ing­ton in the area of dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance and defense has inten­si­fied con­sid­er­ably dur­ing the tenure of Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel. Accord­ing to one doc­u­ment, the Ger­mans are deter­mined to “strength­en and expand bilat­er­al coop­er­a­tion.”

    Com­plete­ly Unaware?

    This is awk­ward news for Merkel, who is run­ning for re-elec­tion as the head of the cen­ter-right Chris­t­ian Democ­rats. The Ger­man cam­paign had been rel­a­tive­ly unevent­ful until recent­ly, but now a new issue seems to have emerged: the Amer­i­cans’ lust for data. Oppo­si­tion politi­cians have inten­si­fied their attacks in recent days. First Peer Stein­brück, the Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date for the Chan­cellery, accused Merkel of hav­ing vio­lat­ed her oath of office for fail­ing to pro­tect the basic rights of Ger­mans. Not long lat­er, SPD Chair­man Sig­mar Gabriel referred to Merkel as a “spin doc­tor who is try­ing to pla­cate the pop­u­la­tion.” Accord­ing to Gabriel, it has since been proven that the Ger­man gov­ern­ment knew about the NSA’s activ­i­ties.

    But the attacks from the SPD are not the chan­cel­lor’s biggest wor­ry; the real threat comes from with­in. At a very ear­ly junc­ture, Merkel insist­ed that her gov­ern­ment had been com­plete­ly unaware of the NSA’s activ­i­ties. It is a posi­tion she reit­er­at­ed before start­ing her sum­mer vaca­tion last Fri­day.

    She will now be judged on the basis of those state­ments. Inter­nal­ly, Merkel’s advi­sors argue that she had no choice but to take such a clear posi­tion. After all, both the head of the BND and the pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al Office for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion (BfV), Ger­many’s domes­tic intel­li­gence agency, had said that they had had no detailed knowl­edge of the Prism sur­veil­lance pro­gram and the extent of Amer­i­can data col­lec­tion. On what basis could Merkel have con­tra­dict­ed them?

    But with each day, fears are grow­ing at the Chan­cellery that a paper could even­tu­al­ly turn up that clear­ly shows the gov­ern­men­t’s knowl­edge of the NSA activ­i­ties.

    But does that real­ly mat­ter? What is worse? To be gov­erned by a cab­i­net that con­ceals its con­nivance from cit­i­zens? Or to have a chan­cel­lor and min­is­ters whose intel­li­gence agen­cies exist in a par­al­lel world, beyond the super­vi­sion of the gov­ern­ment and par­lia­ment? Inter­nal NSA doc­u­ments show that the Amer­i­cans and Ger­man intel­li­gence agen­cies are coop­er­at­ing more close­ly than pre­vi­ous­ly known. The repeat­ed asser­tions by the gov­ern­ment and intel­li­gence agen­cies in recent weeks that they were not ful­ly aware of what US sur­veil­lance spe­cial­ists were doing appear disin­gen­u­ous in the extreme in light of the doc­u­ments SPIEGEL has seen from the col­lec­tion secured by Snow­den.

    ‘Key Part­ners’

    Accord­ing to those doc­u­ments, the BND, the BfV and the Bonn-based Fed­er­al Office for Infor­ma­tion Secu­ri­ty (BSI) all play a cen­tral role in the exchange of infor­ma­tion among intel­li­gence agen­cies. The NSA refers to them as “key part­ners.

    The Amer­i­cans pro­vid­ed the BfV with one of their most pro­duc­tive spy­ing tools, a sys­tem called “XKeyscore.” It’s the same sur­veil­lance pro­gram that the NSA uses to cap­ture a large share of the up to 500 mil­lion data sets from Ger­many, to which it has access each month, accord­ing to inter­nal doc­u­ments seen and report­ed on by SPIEGEL on the first of this month.

    The doc­u­ments also reveal the lengths to which the Ger­man agen­cies and Ger­man politi­cians were will­ing to go to devel­op an even clos­er rela­tion­ship with the Amer­i­cans. This is espe­cial­ly applic­a­ble to the G‑10 law, which estab­lish­es the con­di­tions under which sur­veil­lance of Ger­man cit­i­zens is per­mis­si­ble. In one clas­si­fied doc­u­ment — under a sec­tion titled “Suc­cess Sto­ries” — it reads: “The Ger­man gov­ern­ment mod­i­fies its inter­pre­ta­tion of the G‑10 pri­va­cy law … to afford the BND more flex­i­bil­i­ty in shar­ing pro­tect­ed infor­ma­tion with for­eign part­ners.”

    The claim that Ger­man intel­li­gence agen­cies knew noth­ing was already hard to believe giv­en that they have been coop­er­at­ing with Amer­i­can agen­cies for decades. Accord­ing to an NSA doc­u­ment from this Jan­u­ary, coop­er­a­tion between the offen­sive divi­sions of the NSA and the BND’s “Tech­ni­cal Recon­nais­sance” unit began long ago in 1962.

    The Amer­i­cans are extreme­ly sat­is­fied with the Ger­mans. For decades, Wash­ing­ton poked fun at the con­sci­en­tious Ger­man spies, who always had a legal decree on hand to jus­ti­fy why they were regret­tably unable to par­tic­i­pate in an espe­cial­ly del­i­cate oper­a­tion. This was a source of annoy­ance to the Amer­i­cans, but ulti­mate­ly they had no choice but to accept it.

    More recent­ly, how­ev­er, that has changed, as the Snow­den doc­u­ments indi­cate: The Ger­man bureau­crats have become real spies.

    Dur­ing the course of 2012, in par­tic­u­lar, the Ger­mans showed great “eager­ness and desire” to improve their sur­veil­lance capac­i­ties and even “to take risks and to pur­sue new oppor­tu­ni­ties for coop­er­a­tion with the US,” accord­ing to the NSA doc­u­ments to which SPIEGEL was giv­en access.

    A Close Link

    The shift to a more offen­sive Ger­man secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy began in 2007, when Merkel’s con­ser­v­a­tives were in pow­er in a coali­tion with the SPD, the so-called “Grand Coali­tion.” Based on infor­ma­tion the NSA had passed on to the BfV, Ger­man author­i­ties dis­cov­ered a group of Islamists led by con­vert Fritz Gelow­icz, known as the Sauer­land cell. Gelow­icz and sev­er­al of his friends had planned to det­o­nate bombs in Ger­many. To this day, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is grate­ful to the Amer­i­cans for the tip.

    Accord­ing to the NSA doc­u­ment, the suc­cess­ful oper­a­tion cre­at­ed “a sig­nif­i­cant lev­el of trust” between the NSA and the BfV. Since then, the doc­u­ment reads, there have been “reg­u­lar US-Ger­man ana­lyt­ic exchanges and clos­er coop­er­a­tion in track­ing both Ger­man and non-Ger­man extrem­ist tar­gets.” The doc­u­ments show that the NSA also pro­vid­ed sev­er­al train­ing ses­sions for BfV agents. The aim was “to improve the BfV’s abil­i­ty to exploit, fil­ter and process domes­tic data.” The hope was to cre­ate inter­faces so that data could be exchanged on a larg­er scale — a coop­er­a­tion “that could ben­e­fit both Ger­many and the US,” the paper reads.

    The pact also inten­si­fied on Ger­man soil. An NSA ana­lyst accred­it­ed as a diplo­mat at the US Embassy in Berlin uses an office at the BfV once a week. Accord­ing to the doc­u­ment, the ana­lyst’s job is to “nur­ture” the thriv­ing rela­tion­ship with the BfV. The agent also “facil­i­tates US require­ments.” In addi­tion, the Ger­mans set up a “com­mu­ni­ca­tions link” to the NSA to improve ties between agen­cies.

    Per­son­al rela­tion­ships also inten­si­fied. In May alone, just a few weeks before the Snow­den rev­e­la­tions began, BfV Pres­i­dent Hans-Georg Maassen, Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Hans-Peter Friedrich and the 12-mem­ber BND del­e­ga­tion paid a vis­it to NSA head­quar­ters. In the same month, NSA Direc­tor Gen­er­al Kei­th Alexan­der trav­eled to Berlin, where he made a stop at the Chan­cellery, which super­vis­es the BND.

    The coop­er­a­tion went beyond high lev­el vis­its. Accord­ing to the papers from the Snow­den files which SPIEGEL has seen, the NSA pro­vid­ed the BfV with XKeyscore, and BND offi­cials were also very famil­iar with the tool, giv­en that their job was to instruct their coun­ter­parts with Ger­man domes­tic intel­li­gence on how to use the spy pro­gram. The main rea­son the BfV was to be pro­vid­ed with XKeyscore was to “expand their abil­i­ty to sup­port NSA as we joint­ly pros­e­cute CT (counter-ter­ror­ism) tar­gets.”

    A “top secret” pre­sen­ta­tion dat­ed Feb. 25, 2008, which almost reads like an adver­tis­ing brochure (the Amer­i­can spies are appar­ent­ly very proud of the sys­tem), reveals all the things XKeyscore was capa­ble of doing already five years ago.

    Accord­ing to the pre­sen­ta­tion, the sys­tem is easy to use and enables sur­veil­lance of raw data traf­fic “like no oth­er sys­tem.”

    An NSA trans­paren­cy titled “What is XKeyscore?” describes a buffer mem­o­ry that enables the pro­gram to absorb a “full take” of all unfil­tered data for a num­ber of days. In oth­er words, XKeyscore does­n’t just track call con­nec­tion records, but can also cap­ture the con­tents of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, at least in part.

    In addi­tion, the sys­tem makes it pos­si­ble to retroac­tive­ly view which key words tar­get­ed indi­vid­u­als enter into Inter­net search engines and which loca­tions they search for on Google Maps.

    The pro­gram, for which there are sev­er­al expan­sions known as plug-ins, appar­ent­ly has even more capa­bil­i­ties. For instance, “user activ­i­ty” can be mon­i­tored prac­ti­cal­ly in real time and “anom­alous events” traced in Inter­net traf­fic. If this is true, it means that XKeyscore makes almost total dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance pos­si­ble.

    From the Ger­man per­spec­tive, this is espe­cial­ly trou­bling. Of the rough­ly 500 mil­lion data sets from Ger­many to which the NSA has access each month, XKeyscore cap­tured about 180 mil­lion in Decem­ber 2012.

    This rais­es sev­er­al ques­tions. Does this mean that the NSA does­n’t just have access to hun­dreds of mil­lions of data sets from Ger­many, but also — at least for peri­ods of days — to a so-called “full take,” mean­ing to the con­tent of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in Ger­many? Can the BND and the BfV access the NSA data­bas­es with their ver­sions of XKeyscore, which would give them access to the data on Ger­man cit­i­zens stored in those data­bas­es?

    If this were the case, the gov­ern­ment could hard­ly claim that it had no knowl­edge of the Amer­i­cans’ vig­or­ous data acqui­si­tion activ­i­ties.


    Relaxed Inter­pre­ta­tion of Pri­va­cy Laws

    Accord­ing to an NSA doc­u­ment dat­ed April 9, Ger­many, as part of the sur­veil­lance coali­tion in Afghanistan, has devel­oped into the agen­cy’s “most pro­lif­ic part­ner.” The Ger­mans are sim­i­lar­ly suc­cess­ful in North Africa, where they also have spe­cial tech­ni­cal capa­bil­i­ties of inter­est to the NSA. The same applies in Iraq.

    But accord­ing to the doc­u­ments, the Ger­man for­eign intel­li­gence agency went even fur­ther in its effort to please the Amer­i­cans. “The BND has been work­ing to influ­ence the Ger­man gov­ern­ment to relax inter­pre­ta­tion of the pri­va­cy laws to pro­vide greater oppor­tu­ni­ties of intel­li­gence shar­ing,” the NSA agents not­ed with sat­is­fac­tion in Jan­u­ary.

    Indeed, when Schindler took office, BND offi­cials were divid­ed over whether it was legal to pass on infor­ma­tion to part­ner intel­li­gence agen­cies that had been obtained in accor­dance with the Ger­man G‑10 law. Schindler decid­ed that it was, and the Unit­ed States was pleased.

    The sur­veil­lance base in Bad Aib­ling, a well-known Amer­i­can lis­ten­ing post in south­ern Ger­many, also shows how close ties are between the BND and the NSA. It was a sym­bol of tech­ni­cal espi­onage dur­ing the Cold War. Most recent­ly, the NSA referred to the lis­ten­ing post by the code name “gar­lic.” Although the last parts of the base were offi­cial­ly hand­ed over to the BND in May 2012, NSA offi­cials still come and go.

    The NSA chief for Ger­many is still sta­tioned at the local Mang­fall Bar­racks. Some 18 Amer­i­cans were still work­ing at the sur­veil­lance sta­tion at the begin­ning of the year, 12 from the NSA and six work­ing for pri­vate con­trac­tors. The office is expect­ed to be scaled back dur­ing the course of the year, with the plans ulti­mate­ly call­ing for only six NSA employ­ees to remain at the base. Accord­ing to the Snow­den doc­u­ments, their work will be to “cul­ti­vate new coop­er­a­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties with Ger­many.”

    To be sure, inten­sive coop­er­a­tion in coun­tert­er­ror­ism activ­i­ties is part of the core mis­sion of Ger­many’s for­eign intel­li­gence agency. But did law­mak­ers know about the scope of coop­er­a­tion with the Amer­i­cans? And, if they did, since when?

    Mak­ing Things Worse

    So far, the BND has been able to count on sup­port from the Chan­cellery for its new approach. But things seem to be chang­ing. The sur­veil­lance scan­dal has the poten­tial to shake pub­lic con­fi­dence in the Ger­man gov­ern­ment and in Chan­cel­lor Merkel — and could neg­a­tive­ly effect her chances for re-elec­tion.

    The NSA’s activ­i­ties, of course, are not exact­ly dri­ving the Ger­man peo­ple into the streets in droves. Nev­er­the­less, rev­e­la­tions as to the extent of Amer­i­ca’s sur­veil­lance abroad are chip­ping away at Merkel’s image as a reli­able man­ag­er of the gov­ern­ment. Some 69 per­cent of Ger­mans are dis­sat­is­fied with her efforts to shed light on the issue, a num­ber that has alarmed the Chan­cellery. Until the end of last week, Merkel had tried to dis­tance her­self from the sub­ject, issu­ing only sparse state­ments. Instead of Merkel, Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Friedrich was expect­ed to han­dle the del­i­cate mat­ter.

    But Friedrich only made things worse, return­ing large­ly emp­ty-hand­ed from his trip to Wash­ing­ton. Instead, he seemed extreme­ly proud of the fact that he had been allowed to speak with US Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden.

    To make mat­ters worse, Friedrich had hard­ly returned to Ger­many before mak­ing the remark that “secu­ri­ty” was a “Super­grun­drecht,” a new con­cept that implies that secu­ri­ty trumps oth­er civ­il rights. A min­is­ter charged with uphold­ing the con­sti­tu­tion who sud­den­ly invent­ed an inter­pre­ta­tion of the Ger­man con­sti­tu­tion that suits the NSA’s pur­pos­es? At that moment, Merkel must have real­ized that she could­n’t leave things entire­ly to her inte­ri­or min­is­ter.

    Last Fri­day, short­ly before leav­ing for her sum­mer vaca­tion, Merkel unveiled an eight-point plan intend­ed to pro­vide more data secu­ri­ty. But most of her points felt more like place­bos. How, for exam­ple, are Euro­pean intel­li­gence agen­cies to agree on com­mon data pri­va­cy guide­lines if British and French intel­li­gence agents are already snick­er­ing over the Ger­mans’ obses­sion with data pri­va­cy?

    In a Bind

    Merkel is in a bind. On the one hand, she does­n’t want to give the impres­sion that she is doing noth­ing about the Amer­i­cans’ lust for infor­ma­tion. On the oth­er hand, this also brings the scan­dal clos­er to the chan­cel­lor. In the end, it will revolve around the ques­tion of how much the gov­ern­ment knew about the Amer­i­cans’ sur­veil­lance activ­i­ties. Last Fri­day, the BND insist­ed, once again, that it had “no knowl­edge of the name, scope and extent of the NSA ‘Prism’ project being dis­cussed.”

    But even if that’s true, Prism was only a part of the NSA’s sur­veil­lance sys­tem, and the new doc­u­ments show that Ger­many was indeed extreme­ly famil­iar with the agen­cy’s com­pre­hen­sive abil­i­ty to spy. They ben­e­fit­ed from it, and they want­ed more.

    But Merkel claims that she knew noth­ing about the Amer­i­cans’ sur­veil­lance soft­ware. “I became aware of pro­grams like Prism through cur­rent news reports,” she told the left-lean­ing week­ly news­pa­per Die Zeit last week. Accord­ing to Merkel’s staff, when she uses such lan­guage, she is rely­ing on state­ments made by the Ger­man intel­li­gence chiefs.

    But what does that mean? Does the Ger­man gov­ern­ment still have its intel­li­gence agen­cies under con­trol? Or have they become a kind of state-with­in-a-state?

    And who exact­ly keeps track of whether the agen­cies, in their zeal to enforce the “Super­grun­drecht” of secu­ri­ty, haven’t already gone too far?

    The place where the activ­i­ties of domes­tic and for­eign intel­li­gence agen­cies ought to be debat­ed is the Par­lia­men­tary Con­trol Pan­el in the Ger­man Bun­destag. By law, the gov­ern­ment is required to reg­u­lar­ly and “com­pre­hen­sive­ly” inform the 11 mem­bers of the board, which meets in secret, about the work of the BND and the BfV, and explain “pro­ce­dures with spe­cial impor­tance.”

    Odd­ly enough, the board has met four times since the begin­ning of the NSA scan­dal, and, four times, law­mak­ers have learned lit­tle about the glob­al data sur­veil­lance pro­grams. Instead, they were forced to lis­ten to long-wind­ed lec­tures by those respon­si­ble, the essence of which gen­er­al­ly was: We real­ly don’t know any­thing.

    Spot­light on Merkel

    Over the years, the board has mutat­ed into a stage for large egos and is no longer par­tic­u­lar­ly secret. The prob­lem is that many pan­el mem­bers don’t have suf­fi­cient time or exper­tise to tru­ly under­stand the kind of activ­i­ties the intel­li­gence agen­cies are engaged in. It is a per­fect sit­u­a­tion for Ger­many’s spies: The less the pub­lic learns about their activ­i­ties, the more they can go about their busi­ness undis­turbed.

    “Mon­i­tor­ing of the agen­cies is pure­ly the­o­ret­i­cal,” says Hans-Chris­t­ian Strö­bele, the Green Par­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the board. “We don’t learn about the tru­ly explo­sive issues until they’ve been exposed by the media.” This isn’t sur­pris­ing, giv­en the vague­ness of statu­to­ry pro­vi­sions on the super­vi­sion of intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    The agen­cies enjoy “com­plete free­dom,” says attor­ney Wolf­gang Neškovi, who once spent many years on the con­trol board for the Left Par­ty. The CDU, its Bavar­i­an sis­ter par­ty, the Chris­t­ian Social Union (CSU), and the lib­er­al Free Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (FDP) have now agreed to estab­lish an intel­li­gence body to mon­i­tor the intel­li­gence agen­cies. But in light of recent events, CDU domes­tic pol­i­cy expert Clemens Bin­ninger believes that a “major solu­tion” is need­ed. He favors the idea of a par­lia­men­tary intel­li­gence offi­cial, to be pro­vid­ed with his own pow­ers and staff.

    There is also grow­ing mis­trust of the intel­li­gence agen­cies with­in Merkel’s gov­ern­ment, a sit­u­a­tion which led to a mem­o­rable scene in the fed­er­al press con­fer­ence last Wednes­day. Accord­ing to a NATO doc­u­ment that had been cir­cu­lat­ed before the press con­fer­ence, the Ger­man mil­i­tary was indeed aware of the exis­tence of Prism. Gov­ern­ment spokesman Stef­fen Seib­ert stat­ed that it was the BND’s assess­ment that the pro­gram in ques­tion had noth­ing to do with NSA spy soft­ware. But he made sure to keep a dis­tance from the intel­li­gence agen­cy’s assess­ment. Lat­er, the Defense Min­istry issued a state­ment of its own which direct­ly con­tra­dict­ed the BND state­ment.

    It is an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion for Merkel. In the midst of an elec­tion cam­paign, her gov­ern­ment sud­den­ly looks to be char­ac­ter­ized by chaos. Of course, if it turns out that the intel­li­gence agen­cies were deceiv­ing her, she could clean house. BND chief Schindler would seem to be in the front of the fir­ing line, with Ronald Pofal­la, who, as Merkel’s chief of staff, is tasked with mon­i­tor­ing the intel­li­gence agen­cies, not far behind.

    But the Chan­cellery staff has no illu­sions. The SPD and the Greens will con­tin­ue putting Merkel in the NSA spot­light no mat­ter what hap­pens. “The chan­cel­lor is more inter­est­ed in defend­ing the inter­ests of the US intel­li­gence agen­cies in Ger­many than Ger­man inter­ests in the Unit­ed States,” says SPD Chair­man Gabriel. It seems unlike­ly that the oppo­si­tion will stand down any time between now and elec­tion day, on Sept. 22.

    Is a Ger­man intel­li­gence “house clean­ing” com­ing?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 22, 2013, 10:58 am

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