Bundesverfassungsgerichtsreform

Reform of Germany’s supreme Constitutional Court.

In an interview given because he wanted to encourage more discussion about the European Union, Constitutional Court president Andreas Voßkuhle indicated there’s talk about reforming the Bundesverfassungsgericht. He said it wouldn’t be a problem if future German supreme court judges were to be elected not by a Bundestag committee, as they are now, but by the Bundestag plenum, as long as the condition is maintained that the candidates do not make statements. Questioning the judges before their election “would threaten to immoderately politicize the Court.” It appears a seat on the Bundesverfassungsgericht is for one term only, because Dr. Voßkuhle said enabling re-election of supreme court judges would be a “stab in the heart” to judicial independence.

(BOON dess fair FOSS oongs geh R-R-R-ICHHTS ray form.)

Stilwechsel

A change of style.

On 22 Feb 2014, Italy’s new prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and his cabinet were sworn into office. Eight of the sixteen cabinet ministers were women, apparently a first in Italy. It’s also one of the youngest cabinets in Italy’s history, with a relatively low number of ministers.

Mr. Renzi said he wants to start reforming Italy’s election laws and institutions this month, with labor market reform in March 2014, public administration reform in April 2014, and tax reform in May 2014.

Background gleaned in February 2013 from international reporting trying to make sense of Italy’s post-2013-election carnage:

Italy’s complex governing problems arose from post-Mussolini fears of a strong Prime Minister and the arcane electoral laws passed by Silvio Berlusconi in 2006. According to the 27 Feb 2013 F.A.Z., problems to be fixed included:

A weak prime minister who could not, e.g., fire ministers from his own cabinet. Tiny majorities were inflated by being awarded bonus seats in both sides of the legislature, in the interest of increasing governmental stability; this must have contributed to Italian voters’ furious sense of powerlessness. Young Italians were in fact powerless, having been deliberately disenfranchised: the minimum voting age was 18 to vote for House members but 25 to vote for Senators! Some election rules were so abstruse it seemed like deliberate confustication (surfed successfully in 2013 by Mr. Berlusconi’s intense campaigning in the more populous regions):

  • Parties had to win at least 4% to enter the Italian house of representatives, unless they were in coalitions that won >10% in which case they only needed to win 2%; but the “best loser” party was also allowed to keep its House seats at even <2%.
  • Senate seats were won regionally and the minimum for a party to enter the Senate was 8% in each region, unless the party was in a coalition with ≥20% in which case it needed only ≥3%.

Update on 13 Dec 2013: Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s election reform will be eliminating state financing of campaigns; it will be gone by 2017 said Spiegel.de. Campaigns in Italy will be financed only by donations from individuals and companies. The parties had been receiving payments from the government based on the number of votes they collected in elections. This will be reduced to 60% in 2014, 50% in 2015, 40% in 2016, and then zeroed out. The new law limited the tax-deductible donations to Italian political parties to max. 300,000 euros per person and 200,000 euros per company.

Germany uses a similar public-funding system for political parties but, said Spiegel.de, only gave 145 million euros to its political parties in 2012 while Italy spent 182 million euros. Mr. Letta’s predecessor Mario Monti had already begun reducing the heavily criticized funding (down to 91 million euros in 2013), which had had the reputation among some Italian voters of making Italy’s political parties a “Selbstbedienungsladen,” a help-yourself shop, for politicians.

It seems Mr. Letta’s plan to eliminate public campaign financing entirely would ultimately reduce democracy in Italy. Large companies could live very comfortably with that kind of power, as we can see in the U.S.A. before and especially after the Citizens United decision by the U.S.’s Supreme Court.

(SHTEEL vecks el.)

“Niedrige Beweggründe”

Low motivations, base motives.

Germany’s new justice minister (and consumer protection minister, since that office was moved to the justice department under the new coalition) is Heiko Maas (S.P.D.). In January 2014 he refused to legalize dragnet surveillance in Germany as written into the new government’s coalition agreement, saying he wanted to wait until the European Court of Justice’s upcoming decision. Surprisingly, this worked, thus pivoting or at least pausing one aspect of the grosse Koalition’s “respectlessness” toward data protection, as writer and activist Julie Zeh called it.

Now Mr. Maas has announced he wants to redefine murder and manslaughter in Germany’s penal code, saying the current laws include Nazi-era language such as “low motivations” that was intended to describe not an act but an actor, a murderer as imagined by Hitler’s jurists, furthermore using “morally loaded attitude attributes” [moralisch aufgeladene Gesinnungsmerkmale]. Among other problems, defining crimes by the person instead of the deed is out of step with the system now used in Germany’s criminal laws.

In 1941, he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Nazis changed the country’s definition of murder to include the following:

[W]hoever, because of a lust for murder, to satisfy sexual urges or otherwise because of low motivations, dastardly or cruelly (…) kills a person

[“wer aus Mordlust, zur Befriedigung des Geschlechtstriebs, aus Habgier oder sonst aus niedrigen Beweggründen, heimtückisch oder grausam (…) einen Menschen tötet“]

Mr. Maas said the courts did Germany a service by even figuring out how to apply such a bad law. He announced that a group of experts will set to work to provide a good foundation for the upcoming discussion in parliament, “whose job it is now to give the courts better laws.”

(NEE driggah   bev EGG grin dah.)

Neue E.U.-Grenzen für Spekulation mit Nahrungsmitteln

New E.U. limits on food speculation.

As part of the reforms to the E.U.’s Markets in Financial Instruments Directive [much more comprehensible in German: financial markets guideline, Finanzmarktrichtlinie], negotiators from the E.U. Commission, Member States and Parliament agreed to create new upper limits capping possible food speculation, in an attempt to calm the markets and prevent investment-driven hunger around the world. Now that this agreement has been reached, it will take about 2.5 years for the Member States to implement the new caps in their national laws.

The British government under Prime Minister David Cameron (Tory party) held out for a long time against putting limits on commodities markets, even for foodstuffs. Proponents for the limits included some banks that voluntarily announced they would stop trading in food commodities. ARD tagesschau.de reported 100,000 people also signed a petition to the E.U. last year asking for this reform.

(NOY ah   eh OO grents en   fooeah   shpeck oo lah tsee OWN   mitt   GNAW roongz mitt elln.)

Fliegen und Tiger sind vom Pferde gefallen

“Flies and tigers fell off the horse.”

Both low-ranking and now at least nine high-ranking officials from the government and top executives from the economy have been investigated for corruption in China.

China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping warned in 2012 that corruption “spreads like worms in a cadaver” and that his government was going to go after the tigers in addition to the flies, both low-ranking and high-ranking officials.

In autumn 2013 Spiegel.de reported that corruption cases had been prosecuted against several tigers, including the top overseer of China’s hundred largest companies and former boss of the giant China National Petroleum Company and its subsidiary PetroChina, “the most valuable company in the world after ExxonMobil” (Jiang Jiemin, Sep. 2013), a former deputy C.P. party chief of Szechuan (Lu Chuncheng, Dec. 2012), a manager of the phone company China Mobile (Xu Long, May 2013) and a former railroad minister (Liu Xhijun, Jul. 2013), in addition to Bo Xilai, C.P. party boss of the city-state of Chongqing and former trade minister.
Update on 19 Apr 2014: Song Lin, chief executive officer of the state-owned China Resources Holdings—which owns a large number of companies from different industries, such as energy generation, real estate and retail sales—for laundering money in Hong Kong.
Zhou Yongkang, Politbüro standing committee member, former boss of the giant state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, then Communist Party chief for the province of Sichuan, then head of China’s security apparatus from 2007 to 2012. Zhou Yongkang is under house arrest, and about 300 people from the oil company, the Sichuan government and the Chinese security apparatus have been arrested in this investigation, with ~$14 billion in property and bank accounts frozen.

Update on 05 Jan 2014: Spiegel.de reported that the Xinhua official press agency announced China investigated nearly 37,000 functionaries for >27,000 cases of corruption between January and November 2013.

(FLEAGUE en   oont   TEAGUE ah   zinned   fom   FEAH dah   geh FALL en.)

Mehrparteiensystem

“Multiple party system,” what Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has called for to replace the country’s current single-party political system, according to Iran’s official press agency I.R.N.A. “Until now, Iran has only had fractions and political wings,” said ZDF heute journal.

(MAYOR pah TIE en zissed AIM.)

Verjährungsfrist verlängern

Extending the statute of limitations period.

At the Fourth World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg in November 2013, the World Anti-Doping Agency (W.A.D.A.) agreed to increase the ban on athletes caught doping from two years to four years, increase the statute of limitations for using illegal performance-enhancing drugs from eight years to ten years, and increase the world anti-doping agency’s power versus sport associations and country-level athletics organizations. Athletics support staff, wrote MiamiHerald.com, such as trainers, coaches and officials, “were not subject to the same anti-doping rules as athletes” but that has now been changed. W.A.D.A. and the International Cycling Union said they will also be creating an inquiry commission to investigate bicycling’s lethally performance-enhanced history. These changes will go into effect 01 Jan 2015, in time for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

MiamiHerald.com reported drugs testing in sport is starting to focus more on intelligence gathering, “as a complement to” traditional urine and blood sampling, and that such “investigation” is how the evidence was acquired for the recent BALCO, Operation Puerto and Lance Armstrong discoveries. At least Bundesliga soccer has not been fully participating in effective anti-doping sampling regimens, taking few samples and discarding them early.

In October 2013, ARD tagesschau.de broadcast an interesting report on the assignation of guilts in a German cyclist’s doping trial. If the cycling team’s managers knew about doping on the team, the judges decided, then after cyclists get caught doping their managers can’t sue them for violation of the team’s official rules.

“This first criminal trial against a doping sinner shows that with the existing criminal laws it could be difficult in principle to achieve a deterrent effect on professional athletes. For a long time now people have been discussing the introduction of a specific paragraph about athletic cheating, making it a crime to ‘distort competition’ [Wettbewerbsverzerrung], as occurs during doping.”
–Frank Bräutigam, excellent legal correspondent for ARD tagesschau.de

A pundit complained that if the cyclist had been found guilty, the verdict would have had far-reaching negative effects such as not punishing team doctors for doping while punishing athletes caught doing it, even though the athletes probably aren’t aware of the full spectrum of harmful side effects and the team doctors are.

(Fair YAIR oongs frissed   fair LENG airn.)

Sich ein genaueres Bild machen

“To make yourself a more detailed/precise picture.” When German politicians are photographed flying over a flood or hurricane looking out the airplane window, they are “making themselves a picture” of the phenomenon.

In a more positive-sounding example, the troika put together from the E.U. Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund that audits the austerity measures of financially strapped member states’ governments before allowing them to borrow more money is now being audited itself by the E.U. Parliament. Particularly the M.E.P.’s from countries subject to the troika are examining their work in detail, with criticism and questions and reporting back to their home newspapers.

(ZICHH   eye n   geh n OW! air ess    BILLED   mochh en.)

Anti-F.I.S.A.-Klausel

Anti-Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act clause.

E.U. justice commissioner Viviane Reding has had trouble passing her data protection reform. Years of debates, thousands of amendment proposals, successful lobbying by U.S. companies and successful pressure from U.S. governments. But now everyone’s mad.

On 21 Oct 2013 the European Parliament passed data protection reforms. They updated 18-year-old rules that were obsolete and also loose enough to let the lawscape vary from country to country, enabling internet companies such as Facebook to shop for Member States with laxer data protection laws such as Ireland.

The so-called “anti-F.I.S.A. clause,” which regulates sharing of E.U. burgher data with so-called third-party countries, had actually been politely deleted in response to pressure from the U.S. government and lobbying from large U.S. companies, according to a June 2013 Spiegel.de article. Because everyone’s mad, the responsible “Libe” civil liberties committee put the anti-F.I.S.A. clause back into the proposed reform and it has now been passed by the European Parliament.

Spiegel.de summarized the key points:

  • Sanctions for violating European data protection rules have been “drastically” raised, to up to 5% of a company’s annual worldwide gross. Earlier this year Frau Reding had had to accept a compromise of a 2% maximum fine, but no more!
  • “Privacy by design,” which means, Spiegel.de wrote, “Companies must design their [websites] to be as [data-frugal] as possible, with the most data-protection-friendly default settings. They must also give their users the option of using their services anonymously and pseudonymously.”
  • “Explicit consent” by users to processing and sharing of their data. The explicit consent cannot be given in small print such as an end-user license agreement. Standardized easily recognized symbols must be included in the request for consent. Companies will not be allowed to create a user profile of users who forbid them to create one.
  • More guardians. Companies dealing with data from more than 5000 people will have to hire a data protection officer.
  • A European Union data protection council will be created to watch over these rights and abuses. To submit a complaint, burghers will only have to contact their country’s data protection office and will be able to submit complaints in their own language. The national data protection offices will escalate and forward.
  • The Libe committee was unable to get a majority vote in favor of the “right to be forgotten” this time, settling instead on a “deletion right” under which E.U. burghers will be able to force companies to tell them what data they have collected on them and then to delete it. The companies will not be responsible for ensuring that data do not appear anywhere else in the internet however, which is what a “right to be forgotten” would have meant. Spiegel.de said German data protection law is stronger here.

It’s not over yet. The European Parliament must now agree on a final version of the reform with all 28 countries in the E.U. Council and in the E.U. Commission. If the reform is not done and dusted before European Parliament elections in April 2014, it may be delayed for ridiculous lengths of time again.

(Auntie   FIE zah   cl OW! zell.)

Divorziati resposati, coppie omosessuali, altre situazioni difficili

“Divorcés who remarry, homosexual couples and other difficult situations,” from Pope Francesco’s September interview in La Civiltà Cattolica when he urged mercy and more understanding for divorced people, homosexuals and women who have had abortions. German reporting said he said their church should be a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital on the battlefield of life; they should heal wounds, not marginalize people via church rules.

In October 2013 a group of cardinals started meeting with the Pope for the first time to prepare reforms for the Curia.

Update on 07 Oct 2013: One Catholic German bishopric (the archbishopric of Freiburg) has decided to allow people who have divorced and remarried to take the sacraments again, on an individual case-by-case basis after intense discussion with their male priest. Freiburg’s archbishop Zollitsch is the head of the German catholic bishops’ conference. His representative said the diocese wants to conduct this reform transparently.

Werkverträge

“Work contracts” or “service contracts” that pay workers per item or opus rather than per hour, month or annum. Piecework contracts paying per product or service.

In the Bundesrat, Lower Saxony (S.P.D. + Green party), North Rhine-Westphalia (S.P.D. + Green party) and the Saarland (C.D.U. + S.P.D.) announced an initiative to investigate what they said is growing misuse of this type of labor contract, particularly in the meat packing industry. Such workers, estimated at >10,000 in Germany reported tagesschau.de, are said to be being lured in from less prosperous Eastern European countries, treated badly and paid “hunger wages” by German standards. Apparently current German regulations do not provide workers with this type of contract the same protections given to temp workers [Leiharbeiter], such as a guaranteed minimum wage for each hour worked.

Investigators’ complaints about poor treatment include “piecework at hunger wages [instead of the usual higher wages to compensate for piecework’s lack of benefits], inadequate health protection and opaque Werkvertrag contracts given to low-wage foreign workers.”

The governor of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (S.P.D.), deemed these contracts “an ulcer on the entire German labor market” and called for them to be banned, saying Werkvertrag workers also need representation in a company’s Betriebsrat, a workers’ committee involved in management. The proposed Bundesrat initiative would mandate that Betriebsrat worker committees must give their approval before Werkvertrag labor can be used in any German company.

Lower Saxony’s government said their state has already passed new rules about shared apartments the companies with questionable Werkvertrag conditions are also renting out to foreign pieceworkers. They now must provide at least 8 square meters per employee-tenant.

(VEH ACK feh TRAY geh.)

Sicherer-Hafen-Abkommen

“Safe Harbor accord.”

After years of discussion, on 19 Jul 2013 E.U. ministers reached an agreement on reforming their outdated data protection principles at their Lithuania meeting, agreeing inter alia that any companies wishing to do business with one of the E.U.’s 500 million citizens will have to obey the E.U.’s privacy regulations or pay fines of “up to 2% of world income,” said justice commissioner Viviane Reding.

She called into question the E.U. and U.S.A.’s current pre-millennial “Safe Harbor” personal data transfer agreement, which companies join voluntarily and in which they verify their own compliance. About a thousand companies joined the agreement, including companies that shared customers’ personal data with the N.S.A. Commissioner Reding said the U.S.A.’s Patriot Act had annulled the Safe Harbor agreement anyway. “I have already told the parliament that if [the Safe Harbor agreement] is in fact what I think it is, namely a loophole, then we’re done with it.” She is counting on German and French support for the new data protection reforms.

Update on 27 Nov 2013: E.U. interior commissioner Cecilia Malmström (Swedish Liberal People’s Party, conservative-liberal, liberal with the non-U.S.A meaning of libertarianesque) announced the E.U. Commission was not going to change the toothless self-policing “Safe Harbor” data protection agreement for now. E.U. justice commissioner Viviane Reding (Luxemburger Christian Social People’s Party and European People’s Party, center and center-right) has given the U.S. a 13-point data protection homework assignment to implement by summer 2014, after which the Commission will re-examine torpedoing “Safe Harbor.”

(ZICHH ah ah   HAW fen   OB come en.)

Im Quellenland Steuern zahlen

“Paying taxes in the source country.” The O.E.C.D. presented its post-Offshore Leaks report on 19 Jul 2013 and announced it wants to enact new rules forcing companies to pay taxes in the countries where the income is earned, disallowing the currently not-illegal practices that shift income to low-tax countries. The G20 countries supported this plan. A “golden era” of “tax arbitrage” may be ending.

Update on 06 Sep 2013: World leaders at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg agreed that in future corporate income will be taxed in the country where it is earned. It will no longer be possible to schubs income around the world, shopping for lower-tax jurisdictions.

(Imm   KVELL en lont   SHTOY ahn   TSOLL en.)

Kaskade von Haftung

“Cascade of responsibility.” New package of banking rules agreed by the European finance ministers on 27 Jun 2013 defining an order of responsibility for saving failed banks: first the banks’ shareholders will pay/lose money. Next, people who loaned the banks money to make loans will pay. Then, owners of large accounts >100,000 euros will pay. Last, the taxpayers will pay. Savings accounts <100,000 euros at failed banks are guaranteed to be refunded, if need be by taxpayers.

CNN.com reported that a hierarchy was also defined among large depositors, with big businesses being asked to pay before small and medium-sized businesses.

Details the day after the announcement: Under the new rules, being called a “bail-in regime,” when a bank is unable to meet its financial obligations, 8% of its debt will be paid by the bank’s shareholders, creditors/bondholders and large depositors. The next 5% will be paid by country bank funds (that will have to be set up). If that’s still not enough, the country will have to decide what to do.

The Guardian.co.uk reported that the second layer, country bank funds, responsible for rescuing 5% of failed banks must “come from a resolution fund which has to be built up over 10 years and cover 0.8% of the insured deposits in any given country.” The UK got excused from having to create or at least fund that fund because they said they wanted to collect a “bank levy” instead, for what sounds like an FDIC-type scheme in which banks (help) pay for failed banks. CNN.com reported that the resolution funds would also contain mandatory bank contributions, however.

(Coss CAW deh   fon   HAWF toong.)

Flickenteppich

A tatterdemalion carpet of many colors, a rag rug, a patchwork quilt. As a metaphor it means a medieval landscape of organically-grown legacy laws that vary unpredictably between numerous small zones (whose locations and borders may also be unpredictable). These countries are fun to visit and very instructive to the historian.

Though most modern economies are trying to make their laws simpler, more uniform and thus more predictable for businesspeople, some are not rationalizing their inherited lawscape and some are even heading in the opposite direction.

(FLECK en TEPP ichh.)

Pustekuchen!

Poppycock! In this video op-ed from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a commentator says it might appear that the best way to reform the world’s tax oases would be to let each fix their own lax tax laws, one-by-one. But piffle! No! Those 40+ tax havens are in competition with one another. Max Planck Institute researchers said market pressures would mean the last holdouts would become too powerfully wealthy and resistant to change. The best way is the one that is most politically difficult: negotiating simultaneous agreements with all tax oases.

(POUSSE teh KOO chh en.)

Saustall

“Sow sty.” In German, the sow is a more intensive metaphor for the pig. Pigs are pigs, but the sow is the SOW. After a six-month investigation of the Saxony state Verfassungsschutz office (Saxon LfV), the investigating committee (of “independent experts” under a former German Attorney General) has said the place wasn’t a complete sow sty but they still have some recommendations for reform. The commission proposed creating a permanent “Verfassungsschutz commissioner” for Saxony, a position that does not yet exist in any other German states and would be similar to the state “data protection commissioners” who are already widespread. The Verfassungsschutz commissioner should have an intelligence background, investigate independently, and not be dependent on which parties control majorities in state parliaments or on legislature election periods.

The investigation was started half a year ago by the CDU governor of Saxony after some Saxon LfV files relevant to the serial-killing neonazi terror cell turned up but no one knew whence or how. Although the independent commission did not discover the origins of those files either, they did find many problems with the Saxon LfV’s filing system and also recommended “tightening things up” organizationally inside that authority, leaving power structures as they are but sending “the best people” to federal centers.

(ZOW! shtoll.)

Verfassungsschutz

“Constitution Protection.” The name for a federal German police agency that has state branches. I don’t know much about it. The name might be intended to convey the idea that federal police are needed to keep a democracy from falling into dictatorship.

Wikipedia says the Verfassungsschutz offices are responsible for domestic intelligence, the Bundesnachrichtendienst for foreign intelligence, and the Militärischer Abschirmdienst for military intelligence.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said federal Verfassungsschutz is responsible for defending Germany against spying.

Update on 28 August 2012: Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) has announced that he would like to reform the Verfassungsschutz, including a mandate that all state-level Verfassungsschutz organizations would have to send all their information to a central federal office (some state offices have already protested this) and that a central federal list be kept of all Verfassungsschutzmänner and -frauen who are providing information to these police in return for money. See V-Mann, V-Frau.

Update on 29 August 2012: The state and federal reps supposedly only discussed for one hour before agreeing on a framework for reform, which even the opposition SPD party now supports. Not only will state Verfassungsschutz offices be required to share all information with the federal office, but the federal office will be required to share all information with state offices as well (there are currently a total of 17 Verfassungsschutz offices). The state reps negotiated away Hans-Peter Friedrich’s proposal that the federal office be made the sole boss of  investigations of (potentially) violent groups. Angela Merkel’s libertarianesque coalition partner, the FDP, criticizes that these changes are just moving furniture around and the old system, with its redundancies, remains the same.

Update on 03 July 2013: Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) and the head of federal Verfassungsschutz, Hans-Georg Maaßen, announced the Verfassungsschutz agencies will undergo fundamental reforms of structures and procedures, imposing uniform standards on the state and federal offices. The changes are to include: new guidelines for the use of V-people (“persons who have committed the most serious crimes are not to be acquirable as V-people” —Maaßen; informants are no longer to receive fees high enough that they could live on that income alone; handlers are to be swapped every five years at the latest to prevent friendships and Seilschaften; and a central file of state and federal V-people is to be created e.g. to prevent multiple Verfassungsschutz offices from paying the same informant); new rules for working with state Verfassungsschutz agencies (which will have to send the knowledge they acquire in unfiltered form to the federal office) and in future files are only to be destroyed after multiple-step reviews (with destruction training and a “file destruction officer” appointed for each department). “Cross-thinkers” [Querdenker] in the offices are supposed to observe, question and criticize what they see, hopefully spotting real trends and catching when departments are on wrong or slow tracks. These initial reforms are said to be in response to the failures discovered in the investigations of Germany’s decade-long serial-killing bank-robbing neonazi terror cell, not to the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Because there is a German election in two months it’s possible these announced reforms will not be enacted and/or funded, as has apparently been the case with some of Health Minister Daniel Bahr (FDP)’s pre-election reform announcements. The opposition criticized them as purely cosmetic and piecemeal anyway. Thomas Oppermann (SPD) called for a mentality change at these agencies and training employees so that they “have a sense of where the real dangers to our democracy lurk.” Hans-Christian Ströbele (Green party) said Verfassungsschutz should be eliminated “such as it is. We can’t let people just continue on who failed like that.”

Update on 19 Sep 2013: A state Verfassungsschutz office (Lower Saxony’s) was caught collecting and keeping information on at least seven journalists. Federal-level Verfassungsschutz was also caught cooperating with the C.I.A. and the Bundesnachrichtendienst to spy on a journalist, though Hans-Georg Maaßen issued a denial; the NDR journalist‘s name, passport number, mobile phone number and date of birth were on a U.S. list of names and data given to the German domestic and foreign intelligence agencies in 2010 with a request for more information about those people.

These reports showed that the German domestic intelligence Verfassungsschutz (state and federal) and foreign intelligence Bundenachrichtendienst agencies are supplying information for databases (now including ones named “Project 6,” “P6” and/or “PX”) that should have been inspected by data protection officers and subject to German data protection rules regulating among other things what information they can contain and for how long, after which the data must be deleted. However, the German data protection officers did not know about these databases, said Peter Schaar. He said this is no minor infraction, and “anyone running such a project absolutely must guarantee that all activities are completely documented and subjected to data protection control/inspection.”

The excuse for Lower Saxony Verfassungsschutz’s spying on journalists was fighting neonazis and the excuse for federal Verfassungsschutz’s spying on journalists was fighting terror. In his 2007 book Das Ende der Privatsphäre [“The End of Privacy”], Mr. Schaar said in the 1990’s the excuse tended to be fighting organized crime.

Update on 14 Mar 2014: New Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière announced the Verfassungsschutz will stop watching members of the Leftists party, which many S.E.D. politicians from the former East Germany joined twenty years ago, “unless they have good grounds for surveillance.” It will also “in general” stop watching Bundestag members, no matter what party they belong to. He said they reserved the right to investigate resumption of surveillance if they received new knowledge. Such as, that Bundestag members had connections to extreme milieux willing to do violence. Süddeutsche.de said this change of policy is in response to a case Bodo Ramelow (Leftists, and kept under observation for decades) brought to the supreme court, Bundesverfassungsgericht, in Karlsruhe. The court decided in October 2013 that “parliamentarians could only be watched who abused their mandate to fight against the free democratic basic order.” Süddeutsche.de said Mr. de Maizière’s formal statement did not say members of state parliaments would generally no longer be watched, and it noted that formally that his statement only commits the federal Bundesverfassungsschutz to suspend operations, not the 16 state offices.

Update on 08 Apr 2014: A company that represents companies in the Maschinenbau industry [“machine building,” industrial engineering] signed an agreement with federal Verfassungsschutz at this year’s trade show in Hanover. The agreement is supposed to encourage more German companies to consult Verfassungsschutz about suspected cases of industrial espionage. FAZ.net: “But Verfassungsschutz’s advantage is that unlike police they do not have to follow up on a crime, said the association. That is to say, the intelligence agency can pass on information to a company that’s affected; what happens with it after that is the management’s decision.”

(Fer FOSS oongs shoots.)

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