Dieser Gastbeitrag von Jacob Appelbaum erschien zunächst übersetzt und leicht gekürzt in der heutigen Ausgabe der „Zeit“. Veröffentlichung hier mit freundlicher Genehmigung.
In the summer of 2013 I arrived in Berlin and applied for a journalist visa. My visa application was accepted and amongst the paperwork required, I had a letter of support from „Der Spiegel“ and another from netzpolitik.org. Thanks to those in German investigative journalism, I found a new home. A home where it became safe to write and to expose crimes committed by the powerful. This includes extra-judicial assassination kill lists, mass and so-called targeted surveillance, economic espionage, and all manner of political spying to further non-democratic domination. In Germany, I found a safe haven that the country of my birth is no longer for my investigative journalism.
Climate against critical voices
I left America because of political harassment. The need to use double talk, the requirement of total paranoia, of worrying about undercover infiltrators, to assume our houses were bugged, our phone lines monitored, that our cars had tracking devices. The political situation for a working independent investigative journalist in areas of so-called „National Security“ in the United States was and is simply out of control. The most unbelievable aspect is the espionage investigation against nearly everyone, including myself, working as a journalist with WikiLeaks. In modern US it is considered as espionage by the politically impacted with some clamoring for execution of my co-workers or of hanging our alleged sources for treason. To say that the climate against critical voices in the press is difficult would be an understatement. A goal of such harassment is to create nightmares as a punishment with the explicit end goal of silencing our voices.
The secret services of Germany are seeking to bring this climate to Berlin. German intelligence wants to distract from their actual involvement in terrorism such as the NSU scandal. In doing so they show that the serious issues are not simply a matter of America’s NSA, FBI or CIA. The issues surrounding effectively and democratically controlled intelligence services is a global question. Germany is not exempt from this problem. Will Germany choose to work towards an acceptable solution? Will it choose to strike a blow to the fourth pillar of democracy? Germany has one of the strongest free presses in the entire world and this is currently demonstrated by the spectrum of support for netzpolitik.org. From „Bild“ to „Der Spiegel“ to „Tagesschau“, nearly everyone in the press considers these investigations a travesty that must not continue.
Investigations create a sense of fear
The investigations against netzpolitik.org’s Markus Beckedahl, Andre Meister and their unknown source(s) are a sad repeat of the 1962 „Der Spiegel“ scandal. It must end before it reaches the heights of absurdity seen in 1962. The cost for that serious political blunder included the dismissal of those in the government primarily responsible. The cost for such a mistake must not decrease over time. The price paid by those seeking to harm a pillar of democracy must be higher this time around. Those in government institutions primarily responsible should be dismissed. All who participated should take responsibility and publicly apologize before leaving their positions. Given the issues of targeted and mass surveillance taking place in Germany today by both foreign and domestic secret services, it is shocking that of all the parties involved, it is the journalists exposing these obvious crimes who are investigated.
On Saturday, August the 1st, thousands of people marched through the streets of Berlin to the Ministry of Justice to demand that the investigations be dropped. The crowd made clear statements for legal reform to protect journalists. To bring investigations for treason is meant to chill and meant to harm. These investigations create a sense of fear that is pervasive. It results in double speak, of going to extraordinary measures to meet sources, of gallows humor jokes, of discussions of being spied upon, it results in not treating homes or offices as spaces to work towards normal, acceptable democratic ideals. This is the goal of the spies everywhere: to control, with fear, a core apparatus of democratic society.
The demonstrators were clear: We stand with netzpolitik.org and we refuse to be intimidated!
The demonstrators repeatedly made three clear and reasonable statements. First and foremost is that the spies are out of control; they are attempting to intimidate the free press by picking on those perceived to be the weakest. Secondly, the spies are seeking to intimidate past, current and future sources. The spies wish to hunt down past and current whistleblowers whose bravery exposes necessary facts, wrong doing, corruption, fraud, wastefulness and government crimes. Thirdly, the federal prosecutor must drop the investigation with a full public apology to be completed by resignation for threatening the democratic foundations of a free press in Germany.
For those in the press it is clear that what happens to netzpolitik.org will change the very face of journalism in Germany. Today the press is working together to support Markus and Andre; we’re all digging in for the long fight.
The practice of scientific journalism is to ensure that articles include original source documents whenever possible. This is essential in our modern age for fighting against propaganda, against our own biases and for empowering everyone to interpret the facts individually. It is thus essential to publish and share source documents as netzpolitik.org has done, especially with what seems to be science fiction stories that pre-Snowden would not be believed. Original source documents are critical for explaining that mass surveillance programs are real and being implemented without any input from the public. As a matter of public record, together my colleagues I have published thousands of pages of classified documents in the public interest. This includes revealing that Angela Merkel herself, along with every other German, has been spied upon. Publication of these facts and supporting documents is critically important for democratic discussion. An attack on Markus and Andre is an attack on all of us. While some journalists may beg for mercy, I instead call on all journalists and all of society to stand with defiance in solidarity with netzpolitik.org.
It is a matter of public record that while working as a member of the press on stories publishing classified information I’ve had the pleasure to work with many committed and respectable journalists. These journalists work at NDR, WDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel, Heise, Le Monde and other publications.
Former and future sources
I only speak for myself and not the above list of well documented hard working journalists. I think it is unreasonable to bring a treason investigation against netzpolitik.org’s Andre Meister, Markus Beckedahl and their unknown sources alone: I invite you to bring it against all of us! If investigative journalism is a crime, it is a matter of public record that we are all guilty of working to inform the public of critically important facts. Will the government seek to investigate and imprison us all? If Markus and Andre go to jail, I’ll gladly join them in the cell. While I only speak for myself, I know I’m not alone in this conviction. We will fill the jails with our bodies as we fill the papers with our ink and for the very same reasons!
The long and the short march through the institution is already underway. Everyone in Germany and now the world knows which journalists are under threat and who will continue to publish.
It it is clear that the journalists at netzpolitik.org are not intimidated by the investigations and they will continue their work even in the face of a brazen attempt at press suppression. We cannot know how former and future sources will react to the incidents, and so indirectly, the work of the entire office is hindered. It cannot be assumed that any conversation of even such a small team of journalists is free from interception measures. This is a path of madness and it must not continue, instead we must set a positive example for the whole world.
Without knowing about the activities of intelligence agencies it is not possible for a democratic society to discuss the legitimacy of these activities or to grant our consent. The task society demands from journalists is to provide this information in the public interest even when it goes against the wishes of individuals in governments and other powerful institutions. It is beyond absurd for something to be both „treason“ and a necessary role in a well functioning democratic state. Investigative journalists will continue to investigate wrong doing as is our right under article five of the German constitution.
Journalists at netzpolitik.org are working to ensure that everyone is well informed and able to be a part of the conversations required for a healthy society. Share and republish their articles and source documents, send them money for their efforts and of course they’re taking submissions: submit(at)netzpolitik.org.
The leaks will continue until morals improve!
Donate to netzpolitik.org: https://netzpolitik.org/spenden/.
Leak documents to netzpolitik.org: submit(at)netzpolitik.org
GnuPG key ID: 0x79F824F3AE6E86D11C5587EB1344BDCA515B1691