German officials in charge of data protection are shocked by the federal prosecutors’ decision to not commence a criminal-investigation into the much-publicized NSA’s mass spying on German citizens.
Citing sources-from within the office of the German federal-prosecutor, various German media houses reported that the German federal-prosecutor had indicated that they did not find sufficient evidence to enable for a criminal investigation and prosecution of the NSA.
The reports added that there would be no investigation or prosecution even of the NSA’s alleged tapping of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s telephone conversations. Documents terminating the initial investigations into this matter, which had been ongoing for months now, are ready though not yet signed.
The federal prosecutor said through his office’s spokesman that he had not yet concluded this matter but will make a final decision soon. He added that the reason for the delay of the final decision was because there still remain some loose ends that need to be tied-up. He however did not refute reports that investigations would soon be stopped.
According to Suddeutsche Zeitung, it was extremely difficult for the prosecutor to collect evidence about the NSA’s German activities or its counterpart-GCHQ of Britain citing a lack of documents witnesses. Attempts to gather more information that were filed with authorities in the US most probably were not answered while requests to the German federal-government and federal intelligence services for further evidence were also denied. The newspaper said that apparently, the only information the authorities had was based on-media reports.
Citing source protection Der Spiegel — which had unearthed the spying on Chancellor Merkel’s phone — denied the prosecution access to documents it had allegedly acquired from the former NSA contractor and now fugitive Edward Snowden. The prosecution’s attempts to try retrieving information from Snowden’s own archive or acquire his written opinion were also futile.
The media reports on the cancellation of the criminal investigations were received with bewilderment at Schleswig-Holstein’s Office of the`Data Protection`Commissioner (ULD).
Thilo Weichert, the data protection commissioner at ULD, decried the fact that despite three books by German journalists who have had access to Snowden’s documents being available, as well as a continuing stream of media reports on the NSA’s disregard for data protection across the globe, it is not comprehensible why the federal prosecution had not even tried to question the known suspects.
Weichert termed the move as reducing to absurdity the data protection authorities’ work. He questioned how they can be expected to function well when the top investigatory authority in Germany terminates a preliminary investigation yet the privacy of some millions of citizens was obviously violated by the NSA.
He said that the “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 further added that even public statements from the NSA and/or GCHQ alone should have been sufficient to warrant a criminal investigation.
In an email, Rena Tangens of the privacy and human-rights group DigitalCourage said that if the`attorney-general indeed declined to launch an`investigation into the`matter, then that is similar to refusing to`work, terming the situation as grotesque. DigitalCourage`filed a`criminal complaint against the federal government of Germany for`its alleged`involvement in prohibited and illegal covert intelligence activities.