Resisting the Surveillance State in Germany

On Saturday, August 30, more than 6000 people took to the streets of Berlin, Germany to protest against intelligence agencies’ mass surveillance.

A broad alliance of more than 80 organizations, including many internet activists, journalists, human rights organizations, lawyers and even judges had called for this demonstration under the slogan “Freedom not Fear.” Of course whistle-blowing websites, such as WikiLeaks and whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden, who revealed the horrifying extent of mass state surveillance, were omnipresent throughout the various speeches. But the speakers also pointed out that the German intelligence services are not innocent and that they are often working hand in glove with their US counterparts. The jurist and author Rolf Gössner, a representative of the International League for Human Rights spoke of the shameless arms race in the global information war that is supposed to serve counter terrorism and security, but in reality serves geostrategic and economic interests, ultimately also aimed at suppressing uprisings and securing military interventions. Several speakers made reference to the need to strengthen the “culture of whistle-blowing” also in Germany, such as IT-security expert and developer of encryption technologies Jacob Appelbaum: “If you are working in the NSA, in the CIA, in the German domestic or foreign intelligence agencies: Leak more documents! If you are not in the NSA, BND or CIA: Go there! Work there and come back with the documents!”

TRANSCRIPT:

Rena Tangens digitalcourage.de: We are out today under the slogan “Freedom not Fear” because we are mad. We are tired of defending ourselves individually by using encryption, anonymization services or renouncing communication altogether. Since Edward Snowden’s revelations, we know, what we’ve always feared is actually happening. And this makes many people mad. Many simply don’t know what to do about it, where they should express their anger. We really have to make a change in politics. This is why we are out here today.

Jacob Appelbaum, IT-Security expert: spricht Englisch

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, author: It is extremely unfortunate that our government forgets that it has to represent the interests of the German people rather than dovetailing its power interests with those of different partners. This is an enormous mistake. We are going to pay dearly for it. And in the end, this is probably nothing but a desperate act by collaborators and accomplices, who are trying to cover up what they, themselves, have been doing for years – participating in these intrigues. They should be held accountable.

Without name: If everyone is always under surveillance, you can never be sure that what you do will not have negative consequences in the future. This can cause people to abstain from any political engagement. And this is a major threat to democracy.

Rolf Gössner, jurist, International League for Human Rights: There is a lot at stake. This is about the fundamental right to freedom of communication and expression and the right to privacy. The German government made more or less attempts at the diplomatic level, but they didn’t bring anything. In any case, it didn’t stop this mass surveillance. The reason could be that Germany and its intelligence agencies – particularly the foreign intelligence service, the BND – are involved in this secret global network. Edward Snowden clearly said – and he knows – that the NSA and BND are working hand in glove. A gruesome thought, but that’s not all. The German government is about to upgrade its intelligence agencies – not to protect the population, on the contrary. It’s a gradual upgrading to better adapt intelligence agencies to do mass surveillance. An intelligence agency is an alien in a democracy, because it is a contradiction to the principle of transparency and control. These types of secret institutions are prone to abuse power, become arbitrary and to take on lives of their own. This is what we have experienced over the past few years and decades.

Christian Mihr, “Reporters without Borders”: Journalists are of course very much affected by the mass surveillance, which was revealed last year. One of the basic preconditions for journalistic work is the protection and the security of sources. Journalists can no longer work safely. This surveillance leads to an intimidation of sources. The quality of journalism will degrade if sources no longer want to talk with journalists. This is why the NSA scandal – which is not only an NSA-scandal, but also a scandal obviously involving many intelligence services, including the BND – is a massive attack on the freedom of the press.

Hans-Christian Ströbele, Green Party: This mass surveillance will lead to the absolute surveillance of the population’s data. And once that data is stored and analyzed, it can be used for all sorts of things, against individual citizens or groups. It can also be used commercially and in industry. We have to keep that in mind. It’s all about whether peoples’ lives today, but particularly in the future, can be controlled by the use of this collection of data. We cannot let this happen.

Rolf Gössner: The German domestic and foreign intelligence agencies would like to emancipate themselves from the big brother NSA, and emerge from this disaster even stronger. This shameless arms race in the global information war is supposed to serve counter terrorism and security. In reality, it serves geostrategic and economic interests and it will be used to suppress uprisings and securing military interventions.

Anke Domscheit-Berg, Pirate Party: Democracy and mass surveillance are incompatible. If you are under surveillance, you are not free. You can be manipulated, blackmailed, controlled. I have the suspicion that intelligence services have already compromising data on politicians, who are not seriously fighting against this surveillance. Perhaps they are already being blackmailed and manipulated. They are no longer representing the people, following their consciences and acting in my interests. They are acting in the interests of the intelligence agencies, which, in turn, might be acting in the interests of third parties, perhaps lobbyists of major companies. I am against this and that’s why we have to get rid of this mass surveillance.

Jacob Appelbaum, IT-Security expert: If you are working in the NSA, in the CIA in the German domestic or foreign intelligence agency: Leak more documents! If you are not in the NSA, BND or CIA: Go there! Work there and come back with the documents!

Rolf Gössner: Let’s struggle together for a culture of whistle-blowing, which we completely lack in this country. What we lack and what we urgently need is a Snowden in the German foreign and domestic intelligence agencies. And lots of moral courage. In this sense: Thank you!