Menu
Germany drops NSA prosecution due to lack of evidence

Germany drops NSA prosecution due to lack of evidence

This decision will reduce the work of data protection authorities "to absurdity", a German DPA said

Data protection officials are bewildered by the German federal prosecutor's decision not to start a criminal investigation into the alleged mass surveillance of German citizens by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

The German federal prosecutor did not find enough evidence to warrant a criminal investigation, German media reported Wednesday, citing sources within the federal prosecutor's office.

There will be no investigation into the alleged mass surveillance of German citizens, nor will there be an investigation into the NSA's alleged spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, the reports said. Documents to terminate the preliminary investigations, which were in the works for months, are ready but not yet signed, according to the reports.

The federal prosecutor has not yet made a final decision but will make one soon, a spokesman for his office said Wednesday, adding that there are still some loose ends to tie up. However, he did not deny that the investigations would be terminated.

It was impossible for the federal prosecutor to gather evidence about the German activities of the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ because of a lack of witnesses and documents, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Requests filed with U.S. authorities probably went unanswered and attempts to get information from the German government and intelligence services were denied. The authorities invariably told the investigators that they only had information based on media reports, the newspaper said.

Der Spiegel, which revealed the spying on Merkel's phone, refused to provide the prosecution with documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden citing source protection, according to the newspaper. The prosecution's efforts to retrieve documents from Snowden's archive or get a written opinion from him were also in vain, it added.

The reports on the termination of the investigations were received "with bewilderment" at the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ULD) for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Given that there are currently three books available from German journalists who have access to Snowden's documents, and an ongoing stream of news reports on the global disregard for data protection it is "completely incomprehensible" why the prosecution apparently did not even try to question known suspects, said ULD's data protection commissioner Thilo Weichert .

The work of data protection authorities "will be reduced to absurdity" if they are expected to function when the top German investigatory authority stops a preliminary investigation while the privacy of millions of German citizens is obviously violated, Weichert said.

"The fact that these investigations are technically extremely complex and new legal territory should not be an obstacle but an incentive to enforce the law," he said, adding that public statements from NSA and GCHQ alone should be enough to warrant an investigation.

If the attorney general indeed refuses to open an investigation this borders on a refusal to work, said Digitalcourage's Rena Tangens in an email, calling the situation "grotesque." Privacy and human rights group Digitalcourage filed a criminal complaint against the German federal government for its alleged involvement in illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentlegalnsaNational Security Agency

Featured

Slideshows

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

Partners are actively building out security practices and services to match, yet remain challenged by a lack of guidance in the market. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable - in association with Sophos - assessed the making of an MSSP, outlining the blueprint for growth and how partners can differentiate in New Zealand.

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ
Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

The leading players of the New Zealand channel came together to celebrate a year of achievement at the inaugural Reseller News Platinum Club lunch in Auckland. Following the Reseller News Innovation Awards, Platinum Club provides a platform to showcase the top performing partners and start-ups of the past 12 months, with more than ​​50 organisations in the spotlight.​​​

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018
Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

HP has honoured its leading partners in New Zealand during 2018, following 12 months of growth through the local channel. Unveiled during the fourth running of the ceremony in Auckland, the awards recognise and celebrate excellence, growth, consistency and engagement of standout Kiwi partners.

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ
Show Comments