Internet communications heavily monitored by German intelligence services

By EDRi · February 29, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Deutsche Geheimdienste überwachen Internetkommunikation |]

Based on two reports of the German Parliamentary Control Panel (PKG), in
2009 and 2010, the Federal Office for Constitutional Protection, the Federal
Intelligence Service and the Military Counterintelligence Service have
monitored an impressive number of e-mails and other forms of Internet

Although the German Basic Law protects the privacy of postal and
telecommunications, Article 10 of the law leaves an open door for
surveillance, with the exception in cases of “imminent danger to the free
democratic basic order.”

About 7 million (in 2009) and more than 37 million (in 2010) Internet
communications were verified, based on a large range of key-words such as
“bomb”, “missile” or “nuclear”. However, in spite of these very large
numbers, the action seems to have had little result, only 213 cases having
led to important information.

In 16 cases, the secret services have used so-called IMSI catchers that
serve as eavesdropping devices and are used for interception and tracking of
cellular phones.

The Greens and the Federal Democratic Party (FDP) have asked for a strict
limitation of the monitoring data, inspections and reform of the
intelligence services. “Such a coarse grid as the use of words like ‘bomb’
is apparent ineffective and may actually expose anyone to surveillance,”
said Gisela Piltz, spokesperson for the FDP who stated that not only the
issue was constitutionally dubious but also that the efficiency of the
intelligence services was in question.

Head of the Greens parliamentary group Renate Künast believes that security
must serve freedom and not the other way round and that “the security
agencies must respect the proportionality principle.”

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on the other hand, wants a fast
regulation of the Telecommunication Act and welcomes the recent ruling of
the Constitutional Court allowing the police to have access to phone and
computer data. And it has in view the legal changes that should be brought
to deal with the now limited possibilities to get hold of PIN codes and the
identification of IP addresses.

Report of the PKG from 2010 (only in German)

The search for “bomb” is to fight spam (only in German, 25.02.2012)

Intelligence agencies monitored more than 37 million e-mails (only in
German, 24.02.2012)

Intelligence services monitored 37 million web link (only in German,

IMSI Catcher