Peter Schaar: Snowden should come to Germany…

Even back in June, Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar was sugesting that Germany would be a better place for Edward Snowden to lie low than Hong Kong –

He’s still of the view that Snowden shouldn’t settle down just yet. I was in Berlin last week for IETF87, and saw him quoted in a piece in Stern. Here’s a rough translation (with apologies for any errors, especially in translating the titles of various politicans…). It’s interesting not just for Schaar’s observations, but also for the depth and breadth of antipathy it reveals among German elected representatives to the US surveillance program:

German authorities could benefit from Snowden’s knowledge of foreign intelligence services’ intercept practices, Schaar said to the “Cologne Stadt-Anzeiger” newspaper. Meanwhile, in the light of new revelations about the scale of the XKeyscore snooping program, German opposition parties have called for clarification from the federal government.

Snowden needs a safe haven; “I can imagine such a refuge in Germany”, says Schaar. He can also imagine that the federal attorney general might welcome Snowden in person. In Schaar’s view, Snowden’s admission to Germany “also has the advantage that we would not then be driving someone into the arms of an authoritarian regime whose real intentions can, not entirely unfairly, be regarded with scepticism. Schaar was alluding to Russia, where Snowden has been since the end of June.

SPD leader Thomas Oppermann spoke in Reutlingen of a “total surveillance” which cannot be reconciled with the German constitution. The federal government must put an end to this surveillance. Ronald Pofalla, the minister currently responsible for the intelligence services, accused Oppermann of “manifestly having failed to tell the whole truth” about the snooping program, and described as “disturbing” the fact that German intelligence services were conducting tests with elements of the XKeyscore program.

Renate Künast, head of the Green party, exhorted Chancellor Angela Merkel to engage: “The Chancellor must finally take her head out of the sand and defend citizens’ freedom, she explained in Berlin, professing the new revelations about XKeyscore to be disturbing: “It means every citizen can fall under the focus of the secret services”. Green party official Hans-Christian Ströbele described XKeyscore as a “diabolically comfortable surveillance program”.

Left-winger Petra Pau called for a “democracy summit” at which the international implications of the latest US surveillance revelations would be examined. The federal government must prevent the secret services from undertaking a “general assault on essential elements of the constitution”, she continued.

Accoring to a report in the British “Guardian” newspaper, the US secret services have far more sweeping access to world-wide Internet communications than had hitherto been assumed. The XKeyscore snooping programme allows the US security services to see “practically everything the average user does on the Internet”, reported the paper, referring to comments by the former US intelligence worker Edward Snowden.