Wednesday, March 11, 2009

German Intelligence 'Tapped' Foreign Desktops

John Daly writes on

The German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), has eavesdropped on 2,500 PCs in the last couple of years.

News magazine Der Spiegel broke the news on its website this weekend. According to the magazine, information saved on HDDs was copied and transferred to Pullach, where the BND is headquartered. In various other cases, keyloggers were installed to capture passwords for email accounts.

A new note has been issued, giving new operating procedures which will put a clamp on the service's desktapping attempts.

Legally, the BND is treading in murky waters. According to the note, a civil servant with the qualification to be a judge must keep tabs on any wiretap attempts and decide if a suspect may be monitored under restriction of commensurability. The German Constitutional Court set rules when and how PCs within Germany may be tapped, setting the bar high and thereby defeating a new federal law proposed by minister of the interior Wolfgang Schaeuble. The current legal basis for the BND's attempts to infiltrate PCs and networks does not fulfill the requirements set by the Constitutional Court last year. HDD and PCs may only be monitored if there is stone-hard evidence of a threat for legally protected, utmost interests.

Last year, Der Spiegel discovered the BND had intercepted emails sent between a reporter working for the magazine and Afghan minister Amin Farhang. Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan was another target, as well as PC networks in Iraq. PCs of German nongovernmental aid group Welthungerhilfe stationed in Afghanistan were also spied upon.

Former minister of the interior and Liberal Democrat Gerhart Baum expressed his outrage today, stating the government had lied to and cheated him. In the last few months, German parliament the Bundestag was in negotiations with the government about the prerequisites and procedure of 'online searching', as it is called in Germany. Baum states the government ensured all parties online monitoring was so complex, it was merely resorted to in a few cases each year. The newest figures are in stark contrast to the government's statements, which were made during sensitive talks. Baum sees no adequate legal basis for bugging PCs in foreign countries.

More here.


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