German Police Open Mail at Random
by Markus Schlegel,24 May 2007
Germany’s executive branch seems to get ever more out of control. In a report in today’s online edition, eco-left oriented newspaper Tageszeitung (taz) reports about random controls in central post office distribution centers in the city of Hamburg.
According to the report, letters are being opened at random, sorted only according to the city districts and “suspect” receivers. After a series of violent arson attacks against objects such as cars (in which no persons were injured or hurt), and with German Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble justifying about any means for the sake of “security”, police apparently have lost measure in their activities. According to the rport, it is unclear as of Friday morning (local German time) whether a court order has been issued for the course of action taken by the German Bureau of Investigation (Bundeskriminalamt, Landeskriminalamt).
The case reported on Friday seems only the latest example of excès de pouvior on behalf of the executive branch where a combination of blurred lines within the procedural penal code’s provision and an increasing contempt for court orders by the German executive branch are at work.
The most obvious example of such ignorance apparently was the case of the German so called Luftsicherheitsgesetz (Air Security Act): After the German Constitutional Court had made it sufficiently clear in a ruling in February 2006 that it sees legal provisions for the downing of passenger jets by the German Air Force as unconstitutional, new draft legislation was immediately commissioned by German Interior Minister Schäuble to enable such military action.
In the runup to the G8 summit in Germany, after little under one and a half years with the conservative-social democrat grand coalition in power, civil liberties have suffered substancial structural blows. This transforms the according legal provisions into a turkney solution, providing an ideal toolbox for any possible future totalitarian government. In a worst case scenario, even the existing framework would provide such a government with powers and means, technically well beyond what was possible at the point in time when the Nazis took over Germany, in 1933:
- Authorities are enabled to search any online traffic without court orders. Internet service providers, at own expense, need to provide the authorities with backdoors to their systems, entries through which must be intransparent at all times even for ISPs.
- Trojan horse programmes are being commissioned and used by the German State police, enabling the targeting of any PC without prior court orders. After the Federal Administrative court had declared such practises unlawful for police forces, state politicians in Northrhine Westphalia and on the federal level said they saw no reasons to revision existing provisions on state and federal levels for clandestine online searches without court warrants by Secret State Police authorities (Landesverfassungsschutz, Bundesverfassungsschutz).
- All connection data from any landline or mobile telephone line, as a result of European legislation, is currently being stored for 6 months. In the absence of efficient court control, it is unclear whether such data is actually being erased by the authorities, once collected.
- Discussion is continuing over the internal use of the German Army (Bundeswehr) for policing tasks. With the armed forces being equipped for combat, experts question the scope of such legislation.
- Scent sampling, a practise well known from former communist East Germany, has recently been used to identify suspects in the runup to the G8 summit.
- Storage of biometrical data in all municipalities is planned by the conservative majority government and would de facto put all citizens into a position of potential suspects, with issues of misuse of the data unclear thus far.
- In recent interviews, Federal Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Schäuble, said that for terrorist offences the principle of in dubio pro reo could not be sustained.
- The right to free assembly, guaranteed by Article 8 of the German Constitution (Grundgesetz), is being seriously hampered, as no-go areas in the neighborhood of the G8 summit are being extended to a perimeter of 10 Kilometres, apparently ushering in a new tactic of complete denial of an efficient right to demonstrate.
According to a report by the reknowned German protestant news agency (epd), Amnesty International representatives asked to visit mass retention camps which will be set up for suspects near the G8 summit in Heiligendamm.