Germany: US Data-Mining Violates European Human Rights

I’m sure John Brennan, data-miner-in-chief, is not happy about this:

The new German justice minister says Berlin is not comfortable with an EU measure that would grant US authorities access to European banking data. Now it seems likely that the Germans may scupper the deal, which is supposed to be pushed through at an EU meeting in Brussels at the end of November.

The agreement was supposed to be laced up before others got involved in the tricky debate about data protection and individual rights. Now, though, it looks like European Union plans to push through an anti-terror agreement with Washington may not go ahead, thanks in part to the new German government.

It appears the US was trying to push this agreement through before the Lisbon Treaty goes into effect on December 1 (and until what appears to be the SWIFT server is locked up behind a secure wall in Switzerland), ensuring that this measure would get extensive debate.

France, Austria and Finland have also expressed reservations, particularly regarding to the speed with which the new measure was being pushed through. Dec. 1 is the date when the new Lisbon Treaty goes into effect. The reform agreement grants the European Parliament new powers of control over decisions such as the one under consideration — and that means lengthy debate.


[German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger] added: “I consider the attempt to push this (deal) through the European Union just one day before the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect to be very unfortunate. It is a snub directed at the European Parliament, a parliament which has been critical of this deal and which, after the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect, will have a right to help make this decision.”

One of the things that is apparent from the EFF data dump is that the Bush Administration (and presumably the Obama Administration) were kluging together surveillance with US-based collection and other kinds of collection overseas. Several times in the debate leading up to the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, DOJ officials would caution against saying the FISA Court had “authorized” some collection, because the collection in question was illegal in the country in which the collection would take place. So I’m particularly interested in this debate.

If nothing else, the Europeans may force Americans to admit that they’re in the business of wholesale hoovering of information, and not the carefully targeted collections they like to claim they’re getting.

22 replies
  1. dakine01 says:

    From the very bottom of the linked article:

    The US “maintain that this is only about the fight against terrorism,” Weichert said. “But we know that the US understanding of the war on terror doesn’t fit with the understanding of basic human rights in Europe.”

    FWIW, the US understanding of the ‘war on terror’ doesn’t fit what used to be the US understanding of basic human rights, either.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yep–I was going to link to that but had taken enough.

      Like I said, this promises to be a debate about whether the US can take everything. Maybe I need to do some European coverage of the debate. All my Euro-languages are getting rusty; it may be time to fix that.

      • lawordisorder says:

        Told you so…didn’t I not everything in this is pure us politics….allthough a lot has.. but we here at the coffee maker still think we get a say once in a wile…BTW if there’s some local lingo you don’t get…im sure i can find some people who understand the locals

        Just my five cents worth (still looking for the beginner manual for FOOTBALL lol)

      • scribe says:

        A quick survey of the German papers indicates to me that either (a) they don’t care that much about this, or (b) the timing is such that no one will notice the dispute – i.e., it’s one which will be resolved amicably and likely on terms favorable to the US position without much public notice, if any.

        The long and the short of it is that all the German papers and media are leading with coverage of the full-football-stadium Viking funeral given yesterday to the late goalie of the German national soccer team. He walked in front of a train earlier in the week, depressed about something or other.

        (NB: for the life of me, I cannot see why a European national team level footballer would ever feel depressed, if only because when it comes to getting women those guys are on the Derek Jeter level – have to chase them off with a stick…. And when they crash their Ferrari while drunked up, they get a walk and a new one. But, what do I know….)

        In any event, I have not seen any coverage of this issue on the FAZ, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, the Leipziger Volkszeitung, or MDR/ARD. When they are not covering the “Stadium full of tears”, they are continuing to dissect the 20th Anniversary of The Wall comng down. Stuff like puff pieces asking celebs and pols where were you when The Wall fell?

        On this issue: silence.

        • emptywheel says:

          Stop it scribe. I’m going to go cover the debate, and I gotta pretend it’s a big deal.

          And besides, aren’t you supposed to be in the other thread trash talking the Bengals?

          • scribe says:

            I’m letting Mr. 85 do that to the Bungles all by himself.

            Something about his sending mustard to Heinz Field or something.

            A Very Bad Idea. Mr. 85 needs to remember what Kimo did to Carson Palmer, and then to remember that Silverback Harrison is due. In a big way.

            Taunting has its own rewards.

            Me: I have to find a sports bar up here since the cable co takes a year and a day to get around to delivering service and I’m still using the free wifi in an indy coffee shop. When they’re open.

          • scribe says:

            If you want to do color commentary on kabuki, be my guest. In the meantime, remember what happened the last time a German Justice Minister said anything against the US interests in fighting terra the ‘murcan way. That would be the lady Justice minister who, in the Schroeder re-election campaign (late ’02), was alleged to have told an audience of SPD faithful that Bushie was “using Hitler-methods”, more to sell the then-coming Iraq war than to effect torture (since the whole torture thing hadn’t really bubbled up publicly yet). She lost her job inside of a week….

            I heard she’s still looking for work.

        • lawordisorder says:

          id Take (b) as the safe bet…we do a lot of that not to step on the big Honco’s toes so to speak

          Just my five cents worth

  2. Mary says:

    As you can bet from my comments over time, I’ll be interested in this EW. I also think there is a bit more than Kabuki going on, fwiw.

    The Belgian consortium isn’t completely moving it’s data center out of the US bc of Kabuki. There have been some real consequences. It’s a lot more to go into than I have time for now, but the deal that has been looking like a done deal since back in July

    (complete with the misinformation campaign reflected in that AP article at homeland1 – where Brand asserts that “SWIFT was forced under a court subpoena after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to give the U.S. Treasury access ” emph added)

    is not such a done deal after all. It’s interesting and in ways you have to wonder about some things like the military commissions decisions by the US on this front. One of the reasons the EU has given for what it is allowing is that there will be ‘redress’ in US courts if someone was unfairly targeted or their info was misused. It was a hilariously bald faced fib anyway, but still – it gets highlighted very clearly

    For example, the US has touted the capture of Hambali as being attributable to its non-judicial SWIFT invasion program. He’s one they don’t want to get rid of – to ship him off to Indonesia, which might want him, for example

    There were not military commissions charges. Are there going to be civilian charges or are they going to now manufacture mc charges? If so, what about the other, conflicting evidence of al-Faruq and the lack of ability of Hambali to get at the “classified” SWIFT generated evidence being used to support his detention?

    Obama and co want to pretend you can pull and pull on all these loose threads and not end up unravelling the whole cloth, but it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

    • fatster says:

      “It’s a lot more to go into than I have time for now”

      Mary, I sure hope you’ll have some time soon to go into this more. Very interesting.

    • lawordisorder says:

      As to the why of the fact that the there’s still a server in Belgium my guess is this…but before anyone go overboard on the constitution look at the fact that its under international control and therefore subject to some kind of “checks and balance” in the mere fact that also you might wanna look at the reasons…that to me says something about the way you guys do biznes within the legislative body…

      Just my five cents worth

  3. Arbusto says:

    He who has the most information wins? Other than legal niceties, and this and the last Administration aren’t too concerned about that (re executive privilege), how can Europe keep our NSA snoops out of their business. Our leaders seem disinclined or disinterested in manufacturing job reclamation from offshore and walk softly around the burgeoning People’s Republic of China economy and US chits owed them. Before 9/11, the CIA was dieing for work and wanted to become an industrial spy to the highest bidder. Now the CIA is happily overextended in cloak and dagger/wet works. But all the NSA needs are better algorithms and analysis to garner whatever info their masters want, including economic espionage. Just think what our Wall Street mavens such as Goldman Sachs could do with derivatives based on stolen inside information. Why does NSA need permission to do offshore, what it has fairly easily done onshore, other than an appearance of legality if caught. So at least we can employ more NSA snoops and keep our masters on Wall Street happy.

  4. tryggth says:

    Turning over all their financial transactions? The French have come a long ways from expelling US personnel for trying to discern their cheese making “overall economic and commercial directions” plans.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Not all Germans are interested only in fussball, maedchens and bier, though that pretty much captures what American papers are interested in, too. The EU has the kind of data protection regime Americans can only dream about, because their businesses and government actively fought against adopting the EU model, which is the one used as a model for virtually every other developed world. The US has a hodgepodge of data rules precisely to avoid having clear and consistent protections for personal data. It has explicitly enabled a free for all for the benefit of private gain. Your cable company might make as much money trolling your viewing habits – data on which it claims to own – and commercializing its data for marketing purposes, as it does from your monthly billing.

    Europeans also have a court of human rights, something that’s covered hit and miss via our federal courts and state courts like, ahem, those in Texas.

    The US is also not above the global phenomenon of corporate espionage. Having outsourced so much of its intel gathering and analysis, it’s doubtful the US could even affirm under oath that it doesn’t use such data to promote US businesses and undercut their foreign competition. More likely, that’s an explicit use of its “intelligence” work.

    • bobschacht says:

      There’s a historical maxim about “The penalty of taking the lead” (Veblen, 1915). We took the lead, and now others (Europe, China, Japan) are taking our measure, watching what we say and what we do, and measuring us against our putative values. And as we start to sink into the slime of our own making, the second tier of nations are taking note, and choosing their own way.

      Veblen formulated this idea after watching the gradual decline of the British alongside the ascendancy of Germany (Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution). Sooner or later, it will happen to us. But we can postpone the day if we can adapt, and prevent the hardening of the arteries that so often afflicts leading institutions and countries.

      Bob in AZ

  6. lawordisorder says:

    ahemmmm but as these gents we are(amherst’s and all)…..after all this our dearest friends and allies were talking about, we would not engage in such slezy….materes
    unless to inform the US public of true events….such as who do what by who’s checkbook say in chambers of commerce, not saying we did…but then again…. who really knows ay?

    Just my five cents worth

  7. alinaustex says:

    The Germans must be unwilling to return to the days of the Stassi,- would that the United States take that hard earned lesson from those who know what a true police state is -and how far down that slippery slope we here have slid.
    Truly a Brave New World is knocking at our collective door …

    • lawordisorder says:

      Id say thats a sure bet..and its there..not so much in everyday life…. but the way we Europeans look at things…sorta way…my bet as we look in to this torture abyss we need to come to terms that we could have gone down the same way….and thats a pretty big horse pill to swallow…nobody knows that more than the Germans….. lets just say there in the lead on the healing front and they now the does and don’ts are walking away from the abyss as im just a simpel soldier i put this to all the thinkers

      Is The real gift of justice it lets us learn the “story” and thereby help the community, the involved to heal? as in how did we end up in this mess in the first place?

      Just my five cents worth

  8. alinaustex says:

    [email protected] 19
    Its very simple -either we return to the best practices and better angels of our forebears ( we did after all hang two Japanese Generals for waterboarding allied troopers in the the Philippines ) OR .. we are doomed to go down a very dark path of debauchery and lawlessness. My one particular hope is that it was rouge elements of the last administration -the infamous Team B ( Perris are you lurking ?) that my other hope says that Team Obama will eventually get around to bringing to account .
    I have faith that we will eventually find our Better Angels -meanwhile I ‘ll keep my powder dry figuratively and literally …

  9. bluesky says:

    My general feeling is that Germany is weakening on its excellent data-protection laws, though I hope I am wrong and wish the principled Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger well.

    Here is an article in SpiegelOnline from the 15th, outlining the current status of the draft agreement on what snooping will be allowed by the US. It does not sound good, once again finding that the answer to The Terrorists is an abrogation of hard earned civil protections. The EU apparently recognizes that the

    Terrorist Finance Tracking Program has been helpful in identifying and seizing terrorists

    and has been of

    particular value for the member states of the European Union.

    They fail to cite any specific examples though.

    The requirements for the US are not as stringent as for the EU generally/specific states. The Berlin data protection representative Alexander Dix is quoted as saying in October that the

    US authorities were given powers that are denied to the German authorities because they are prohibited by the Constitution.

    The Spiegel also says that

    the data released in the course of the US-requests will also be handed over to the security and anti-terror units of the EU member states as well as Europol or Eurojust. (my translation)

    Hopefully enough EU-representatives such as Jan Philipp Albrecht (from the Green Party) who find the planned agreement

    an affront to the European Parliament

    will do something about it.

    Here is the article:,1518,660597,00.html

    or in translation from Google Translate:

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