After Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of spying being carried out around the world by the NSA and its Five Eyes friends, there have been a number of attempts in other countries to find out what has been going on. One of the most thoroughgoing of these is in Germany, where there is a major parliamentary inquiry into NSA activities in that country. As Techdirt reported back in May, a surprising piece of information to emerge from this is that Germany’s secret service has been carrying out spying on behalf of the NSA, which sent across various “selectors” — search terms — that it wanted investigated in the German spies’ surveillance databases.
One group of people particularly shocked to hear this were the German parliamentarians who make up the G10 Commission that must approve spying operations in Germany. A post on Intellectual Property Watch explains why:
The German Foreign Intelligence Services, supported by the government, tapped the German Internet Exchange Point Decix, the largest internet exchange point globally. While the G10 Commission had approved the blanket tapping, they were unaware that some of the tapped data were forwarded to the NSA, the US National Security Agency, based on a list of so-called “selectors” — names or numbers the NSA sent to their German colleagues.
Understandably annoyed, the G10 Commission demanded to see a complete list of those selectors so that it could check what information had been passed to the NSA, and whether any laws had been broken. The German government said that it would not disclose them. After misleading the oversight body about who would have access to information obtained from the Decix tapping, the German government’s refusal to provide the selectors adds insult to injury. So much so, that it has apparently driven the G10 Commission to take unprecedented action: hauling the German government before the country’s constitutional court, which decides weighty matters of this kind.
Since this is uncharted territory — the G10 Commission had to find out whether taking legal action against the government in this way was even possible — nobody really knows what might come of the move. But at the very least, it’s yet another indication of the seismic shifts that are still occurring throughout the world of surveillance as a result of Snowden’s unprecedented leaks.