Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND will face strict limits on foreign activities after the nation’s top court decided that the protections against arbitrary surveillance enjoyed by German citizens should apply to everyone.
“The commitment of German state agencies to the basic rights is not limited to the territory of the German state,” wrote the court.
The decision is expected to end most of the BND’s overseas operations and limit the agency to all but the most targeted interception of international electronic communications.
The court’s decision stems from a case brought by Reporters Without Borders and other activists who opposed the BND’s ability to harvest telecommunications anywhere in the world without probable cause – this includes access to the Deutsche Commercial Internet Exchange, through which 1.2 trillion communications pass every day.
Plaintiffs worried the BND’s scope of abilities posed a threat to foreign journalists, lawyers, and others who should enjoy the same protections from surveillance that they would in Germany.
“We protect journalists so that they can go about their work, and doing work means that the sources – the informants they have – can turn to them with confidence,” argues Reporters Without Borders Executive Christian Mihr. “With the lawsuit against the BND law, we want to strengthen the protection of sources and informants in the digital realm.”
The ruling gives Germany until the end of 2021 to amend a law that regulates the spy agency. Depending on how Berlin interprets the ruling, it’s possible the BND will be forced to check whether a foreign target would be shielded from surveillance under German law before moving forward with intelligence gathering.
“This ruling shows that Germany, both legally and culturally, puts basic rights ahead of its own security,” warns Professor Sönke Neitzel of the University of Potsdam. “This is definitely going to make the work of the BND very difficult.”
The BND is already banned from spying on Germans, and rightfully so. With little or no ability to conduct overseas operations, the agency will become a useless ally in the global intelligence community. As with its decision to accept millions of Syrian refugees, Germany has proven that its commitment to a shining moral reputation is more important than the lives of its people.
The sole purpose of an intelligence agency such as the BND or the FBI is to protect your country from its enemies and to counter the actions of other intelligence services. Those enemies do not and will not respect German law during an attack.
The naïveté of this action is incredible. If the BND is constrained in this way, it will be penetrated by foreign agents in no time and will have no country left to protect.
Editor’s Note: Will the U.S. have to run support Germany completely in terms of intelligence? Will we be able to keep others from penetrating them to the core? Will we have to restrict intelligence and other top secret information from Germany since they will not be able to protect it?