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German Intel Agency Helped NSA Tap Fiber Optic Cables In Germany 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-i-in-team dept.
An anonymous reader writes Der Spiegel has written a piece on the extent of collaboration between Germany's intelligence agency, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and the U.S.'s National Security Agency (NSA). The sources cited in the piece do reveal BND's enthusiastic collusion in enabling the NSA to tap fiber optic cables in Germany, but they seem inconclusive as to how much information from the NSA's collection activity in the country is actually shared between the NSA and BND. Of note is evidence that the NSA's collection methods do not automatically exclude German companies and organizations from their data sweep; intelligence personnel have to rectro-actively do so on an individual basis when they realize that they are surveilling German targets. Germany's constitution protects against un-warranted surveillance of correspondence, either by post or telecommunications, of German citizens in Germany or abroad and foreigners on German soil.
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German Intel Agency Helped NSA Tap Fiber Optic Cables In Germany

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  • "Have you seen any suspicious Germans around here?"

    Nein!
    • by gweihir (88907)

      Indeed. Simply because

      "Die Deutschen Buerger sind alle verdaechtig! Wir mussen sie alle bespitzeln!"

    • by Bugamn (1769722)
      Nine? Where?
  • by sir-gold (949031) on Friday June 20, 2014 @03:15AM (#47279509)

    Wow, this is an impressive loophole that the NSA and BND have found. The BND can't spy on Germans, and the NSA can't spy on Americans, but they CAN spy on each other, and then share whatever they find.

    The sharing doesn't even have to be official, the BND and NSA could just claim that the information was "leaked" to them by some anonymous 3rd party, allowing them to gain all the intelligence they wanted on their own citizens without actually spying on them directly.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Except for the little detail about the NSA not being allowed to spy Americans indirectly either.

      The problem is not that they find creative ways to bend the law, it's that they didn't really need to. It's been proven over and over again that even in the cases where they did break the law without any loophole or excuse, nothing happened anyway.

      The problem is reality itself. The reality that since the beginning of times governing people requires spying that same people. We've gotten much more civilized in that

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The problem is reality itself. The reality that since the beginning of times governing people requires spying that same people. We've gotten much more civilized in that now we make an effort of keeping that people in ignorance, so they are a bit happier; but the spying continues.

        The government needs spies as it needs assassins and torturers and all kinds of evil agents. If the people keep pushing to reveal the truth, the result won't be the disappearance of evil agents but the removal of the pink veil.

        At some point, if the kid insists enough, the parent's patience ends and he replies "because I say so, now shut up."

        Yes, look how well that turned out for East Germany and the Stasi.

        The only reason to spy on your own citizens is to take advantage of them - benefit for a few in power at the expense of the many.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Are you suggesting this is where the US of A is heading to (/already is)?
          Oh noes... but ... but... we are the stallwarth of freedom, liberty and errr... stuff US-A, US-A, US-A! We're number one! ...and all that

      • The reality that since the beginning of times governing people requires spying that same people.

        The government needs spies as it needs assassins and torturers and all kinds of evil agents. If the people keep pushing to reveal the truth, the result won't be the disappearance of evil agents but the removal of the pink veil.

        At some point, if the kid insists enough, the parent's patience ends and he replies "because I say so, now shut up."

        At "the beginning of times" governments used targetted spying. They couldn't tap intercontinental fibreoptic communication cables, run the output through face recognition algorithms and automatically build huge databases of everyone's correspondance.

        As an analogy, I accept that police and handcuffs are necessary evils. What I don't accept is that we may as well have everyone wear electromagnetic bracelets, which police can remotely switch into a pair of handcuffs.

    • by SpzToid (869795)

      What you call an impressive loophole seems to be modus operandi for these allied intel agencies. How is this any different than what has been revealed about cooperation revealed in the last year between the British GCHQ and the NSA?

      • The main difference is that the "Five Eyes" 'intelligence cooperation' between the US and its Freedom Friends in Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand wasn't really news (though the extent of its activities, the fact that it wasn't only for spying on wicked commies, and the fact that what had previously been ECHELON conspiracy kook stuff was now stuffy official newspaper material was); but Germany made a big show of being Shocked, Shocked, and horribly wounded by the revelations that the NSA had been s
      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Germany traditionally did not get the data product back from the USA vs UK (GCHQ ) and USA share their data. Germany allows the NSA to fully tap all of Germany in any way they like and expects/asks for nothing back in return.
        Over time the German gov or mil will get a good deal on US export grade mil equipment or US mil signals hardware as a thank you from the US gov.
        Cooperation with the NSA comes in stages from a full two way sharing (rare) to a massive data dump for the USA without sharing (more common
    • by sumdumass (711423)

      I'm not sure it is a loophole. Sigint has been participating in schemes like this since the cold war. I think project echelon and project magic lantern grew out of one of these efforts.

      When you hear about inteligence communities cooperating and that's how we found a bad guy or foiled some sinister plot, it was likely something like this. The real difference is the scope and the ability to process the communications.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wow, this is an impressive loophole that the NSA and BND have found. The BND can't spy on Germans, and the NSA can't spy on Americans, but they CAN spy on each other, and then share whatever they find.

      There is no loophole there, it is strictly illegal for both parties to participate in this. The means used to acquire the information is irrelevant.
      Legally there is no difference between NSA planting a bug in your house or having someone else to do it for them.

      The loophole is in that not everyone gets punished when they break the law.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Wow, this is an impressive loophole that the NSA and BND have found. The BND can't spy on Germans, and the NSA can't spy on Americans, but they CAN spy on each other, and then share whatever they find.

      That is supposed to no longer be the case [intelnews.org], but you know how that goes

    • Its not really as big a problem as you're making it, though. Everyone already knows that foreign agencies will try to spy on us, and honestly I'd rather the NSA have that info than not, if someone else already has it. At least the NSA is more "on our side" than the BND is.

      The reason domestic spying is such a problem is because the NSA has huge leverage and access that the BND does not. A US company is going to have a pretty easy time securing itself from foreign agencies if it uses a bit of common sense

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zedaroca (3630525)

      The BND can't spy on Germans, and the NSA can't spy on Americans, but they CAN spy on each other

      Except that it is illegal for anyone to spy on Germans, the NSA CAN'T do that from anywhere in the world without violating the German constitution. When they do it on German soil the Germans have the legal authority to arrest the criminals and they should do so. Not doing so is to disobey their laws and law enforcement duties. When the crimes against their citizens are committed from other countries, the appropriate thing to do would be to ask for the criminals extradition.

      It is the BND's job to keep their

  • by Tom (822) on Friday June 20, 2014 @03:16AM (#47279511) Homepage Journal

    Sadly, this kind of stuff has been modus operandi for Germany for two decades now. You see, there's a whole generation that was raised on the concept of "our american friends". And that generation is in power now.

    You see it in Merkel, who is basically a lapdog to America.

    You see it in our financial industry, which was basically sold bridges by "our american friends" - guess who sent 400 million to Lehman Brothers literally (not metaphorically, literally) the day before they collapsed? Correct, a german bank.

    And you see it in your secret services, which are basically a laughing stock the world over, but try to pretend they can play with the big boys. When in fact they can't even convince our own government members to actually use the cryptophones that they developed for them. *facepalm*

    We are doing some really cool stuff over here, but our people in charge are idiots.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      By two decades, don't you mean six? It's not like it started recently; what do you think Adenauer was doing?

      • by Tom (822)

        No, I mean 2 decades. Adenauer was before my time, what I know about him is from history books and I don't trust them on the details.

        But we also had Brand and Schmidt, for example. We had Kohl who, even though I massively disliked him, cannot be said to have been anyones pet. And SchrÃder was... not exactly great, but he did have the guts to stand up to Bush and tell him that his war in Iraq is stupid and we will have no part in it.

    • In what way exactly is Merkel an american lapdog? Or is that just a fancy way of saying "you dont like her"?

      • by Tom (822)

        No, if I want to say I don't like her, I will say I don't like her.

        I don't like her.

        She is an american lapdog in many ways. In her entire time as chancellor, I cannot remember one time where she stood up for the interest of her country (that she swore an oath to protect) when it was in opposition to american interests. When it was discovered that the NSA had tapped her phone, which quite frankly should be a major diplomatic incident, her reaction was a stern phone call with Obama. She has brought the IWF in

  • It seems inconceivable that a country where half the citizens cowered under the Stasi, would ever consider rolling over and asking the NSA for a tummy rub.

    Worldwide cooperation with NSA seems rather extensive, does it not?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The German spy organization BND isn't so much related to the Stasi as it is a descendant of the Nazi regime and grandfathered in by the US: The predecessor of the BND was called "Organisation Gehlen" [wikipedia.org], named after Reinhard Gehlen [wikipedia.org], later the first president of the BND.

      • by stooo (2202012)

        Yep. Even worse, the Verfassungsschutz (interior "security" agency, created by the USA after the war by recruiting former nazis) is even more implied in (neo)nazi affairs from '45 until today. They basically fund the neonazi party by having half the party being "undercover agents" (thus paid by the government) ....

        There's only one way to deal with it : close the BND and the Verfassungsschutz.

    • by fazig (2909523)
      From the perspective of a citizen it seems inconceivable, yes, but from the point of view of certain politicians and organizations not so much.
      In 2009 there were controversial laws and actions within Germany concerning privacy and surveillance, that prompted videos like this [youtube.com], which was then adopted as a campaign commercial for the Pirate Party in the same year.
      The "Vorratsdatenspeicherung", for example, was actually implemented and had to be ruled as unconstitutional by the Bundesverfassungsgericht in 201
    • East Germany had about 16 million citizen, West Germany about 70.
      So it's more like 20% who had experience with the Stasi.

      Just saying.

      • He's an American. Just knowing that there used to be two Germanies puts him in the top 5%.

      • by stooo (2202012)

        The other 60M experienced the Verfassungsschutz, which had (has) the same practices, but on a "smaller" scale

  • I don't like the sound of that at all...
  • Try to say that repeatedly:

    Bundesnachrichtendienst
    Bundesnachrichtendienst
    Bundesnachrichtendienst

    Now, have a few beers, and try it again.
    • by Carewolf (581105)

      Now try to say Federal Intelligence Service. In German they drop the spaces between nouns that form a new whole, but you have similar syntax in spoken English, you just put spaces between the nouns when you write them.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Friday June 20, 2014 @03:33AM (#47279561)

    These people are doing the same things that were the very basis of oppression of any and all freedoms on German soil in these two regimes. It is like these cretins _want_ that state of affairs back.

    • by jovius (974690)

      The traumas are still unhealed and they are passed on to the next generations, so the world has become a giant festival of self whipping. To avoid talking about the issues huge defenses are erected along with complex system of hierarchy. The totality is nonetheless based on a fragile illusion of power, which can be penetrated by anyone regardless of the applied conditioning - like what Snowden did for example. As long as people believe the illusion it stays together, but it's also possible to voluntarily ch

    • by jeti (105266)

      The terms were dictated by the US. They are part of the agreements that regulate(d) the occupation of Germany (see Truppenstationierungsabkommen).

    • by Warbothong (905464) on Friday June 20, 2014 @08:06AM (#47280329) Homepage

      These people are doing the same things that were the very basis of oppression of any and all freedoms on German soil in these two regimes. It is like these cretins _want_ that state of affairs back.

      They want that level of power, but since it's *them* this time, they'll only use it for "good" (ie. what *they* want).

      Of course, they neglect to realise that's exactly what the Nazi's thought.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        Indeed. "Am Deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen" (roughly: "German nature will cure the ills of the world"). The Nazis though that the wold was corrupt and weak, and that they were doing something to fix that because they believed they had found out how to be better human beings. Kind of like the US portrays itself these days. Of course, the Nazis also though that some could not be "cured" and should therefore be just exterminated. But this feeling of ultimate superiority is a slippery slope and Gitmo, m

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Joint NSA + BND operations have been known about since the Cold War, and the white "Radomes" in Bad Aibling and elsewhere in Germany have been well-known surveillance sites since at least the 1980ies. Also, the ECHELON program has been known about since at least those days. Numerous newspaper articles appeared back then, and The Spiegel seems to have forgotten about its own articles from that time. With ECHELON, it was possible to monitor the entire radio and phone communication of Europe and especially, Ea

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When that limitation was lifted, everybody knew the NSA can now decrypt all standard encryption algorithms

      That has never been substantiated. Everything released by Snowden so far heavily suggests that the NSA focuses a lot on things like implants, software vulnerabilities, and other forms of endpoint attacking so that the data can be seen before it is encrypted or after it is decrypted.

      The reason why strong encryption is exportable is because it became a moot point as the knowledge and technology existed an

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      ECHELON was super fast voice to text and then working of key phrases and words from known and new phone calls, faxes world wide.
      The limitations of ECHELON was you had to have a telephone number to watch or hope the 'bad' people used the correct word in a random call.
      Storage was then for the calls known or new calls to known numbers. Later voice prints where used to pick up known people using new/random phone system.
      The NSA now keeps aspects of all calls, data and then looks back in its own time. The ne
  • She was so mad about her phone being wiretapped. And yet, she was playing along with the American surveillance machine the whole time. Serves her right.

    • As the joke goes: Merkel was mad about her phone being tapped, then our prime minister Rutte (in NL) got mad about his phone not being tapped, as if he's not important enough...

      What I find interesting is that she's mad about her phone being tapped (and others are mad about it too, I heard they're launching an official investigation now). So tapping phones of all other Germans, from fry cook to captain of industry, apparently doesn't merit any outrage. I'd argue that it's the other way around: if there'
      • by stooo (2202012)

        >> our prime minister Rutte (in NL) got mad about his phone not being tapped ...

        That, sir, is impossible. We monitor everything ! We record every phone call !
        An official not being listened to ? I call BS.

    • Serves her right.

      Two wrongs don't make a right.

  • The missing manual.
  • by AndyKron (937105)
    I thought the chancellor was mad about NSA spying in Germany?
  • They always return to their true nature.

    It is left to the reader to define who 'they' are.
  • Bring 800ccs of faux outrage, stat!

  • Didn't Lewis Carroll mention them in Jabberwocky? I seem to recall in the second stanza:

    "Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bundesnachrichtendienst!"

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp

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