The president of the German domestic secret service has filed criminal charges with the public prosecutor because of two of our articles. The accusation: leaking state secrets. We have learned that from a brodcast on public broadcasting radio station Deutschlandfunk on Saturday.
The investigation’s cause are the articles „mass data processing of the Internet’s content“ and „a new unit for expanding internet surveillance“ executed by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution whereof we had reported with the aid of the original documents.
We have reported on this matter because we deem it necessary to start a social debate. Two years after after Snowden’s revelations, the Federal Government has no better ideas than spending more and more money and responsibilities on largely uncontrolled secret services instead of ensuring a better control of secret services and reducing the system of total surveillance.
Naturally, we uploaded the original documents relating to our article because there was still enough disk space and because it is part of our philosophy to enable our readers to inform themselves using the original source. Thus, they can scrutinise us and our reporting.
Apparently, this suffices for a twice charge for treason because it seems to be confidential when the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution expands the Internet’s surveillance and keeps social networks under surveillance using the dragnet principle. This affects everybody, e.g. we could be under surveillance because we have sign up for the same Facebook event as a potential terrorist. But a public debate thereon is undesired.
The charge was published the day after the Deutsche Bundestag (German parliament, translator’s note) has passed a reform of the Federal office for the Protection of the Constitution containing expanded surveillance authority for it.
The „Süddeutsche Zeitung“ (German daily newspaper, translator’s note) was reported for an article about the liaison officer and neo-Nazi „Corelli“. Firstly, this case will be only examined. The Federal Public Prosecutor domiciled by the Federal Court of Justice (German: Bundesgerichtshof, translator’s note) is the federal prosecuting authority and is subordinated to the Ministry of Justice. Normally, he investigates in cases of terrorism and espionage. The surveillance of chancellor Merkel’s cell phone was only „examined“ by him and the investigation has been shelved. Until now, he ignores the mass surveillance revealed by Snowden.
At the same time, it became known that also contacts of the Spiegel, NZZ, and the Handelsblatt(German and Swiss newspapers, translator’s note) were under surveillance. In a statement, the Handelsblatt as an affected newspaper refuses to accept the surveillance:
“The freedom of the press is a precious asset of the democracy. This includes the protection of journalistic sources which allow to report freely and critically. The surveillance of these sources by a secret service would be incongruous with the freedom of press‘ constitutional protection. If there were infringements of the freedom of press, we would condemn it in the strongest terms and would take legal measures against the perpetrators and their partners in crime.”
We agree to that. These investigations are an attack on the freedom of press and an unacceptable attempt to intimidate against sources and whistleblower concerning a topic which about the public would be furthermore duped and sealed off from without Edward Snowden’s courage.
Already in the autumn of 2014, the German Federal Chancellery (German: Bundeskanzleramt, translator’s note) has threatened us with a charge which was also announced but later on abandoned. Hence, again on another way. This approach may be at least approved by the Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière but maybe also by the German Federal Chancellery.
It is very rare that the German Federal Public Prosecutor investigates against journalistic sources. We could not find any case since 2005. Now we shall experience the full rigour of the constitutional state. The charge is not directed straight to our reporting but we are nevertheless affected. We are mentioned and have to expect to be under surveillance and possibly to be subject to a house search.
Furthermore, we see this as an attempt to intimidate. Our present and prospective sources shall be discouraged. Additionally, we shall consider twice what about and how extensive we report. That is disgraceful for a country ranked place 12 in the ranking of the freedom of press.
We will not cease to do researches, to report, and also to publish original documents. There is still a bit disk space on our server.