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German lawmakers decry Federal Police storing 'illegal data' on citizens

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has come under fire following reports that officials stored outdated and false data on citizens. It marks the latest in a series of gaffes to plague Germany's intelligence agencies.

German lawmakers from across different parties on Thursday called on Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) to revise how it stores information and data on citizens.

The protests followed media reports on Wednesday which revealed that federal police are likely to have used questionable methods to illegally store trivial and outdated data on tens of thousands of ordinary German citizens.

Read more: German Federal Police storing 'illegal' data on journalists - report

Chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD) Thomas Oppermann accused the BKA of having "clearly saved indiscriminate data on innocent citizens" and said Thomas de Maiziere, the Christian Democrat (CDU) interior minister, was in part to blame for the "lapse in leadership."

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Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Oppermann said de Maiziere could not be allowed to hide behind the authorities over the mismanagement. Instead the interior minister must explain how the mishap was allowed to happen and outline "what rules apply at the BKA when it comes to data storage," said the SPD chairman.

Revelations over BKA's data-storing practices were first revealed by German public broadcaster ARD following an investigation into why German security officials had blacklisted 32 journalists from the G20 summit in June. It has since been revealed that some journalists were barred due to false intelligence and criminal allegations that had been dropped years ago.

The ministry has since acknowledged that four of the reporters should not have been blacklisted.

Rebuke from the opposition

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the Green Party's co-candidate in next month's federal election, also directed blame at de Maiziere, who she claimed had run the BKA on the basis of "Save first, then ask whether it's legal."

"These sprawling storing practices by the federal government undermine the trust citizens have in the storage of their data," she said.

Stinging criticism also came from the Left Party's deputy leader, Jan Korte, who said that de Maiziere and the federal government had propped up Germany's security services with evermore competencies and an expanding database, while intentionally keeping a loose grip.

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'Urgent need for action'

While not as harsh, there was still recognition from within the conservative government coalition that urgent action was needed to fix how the BKA stores citizens' data.

Stephan Mayer, interior affairs expert of Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) party - long aligned with the CDU - called for rationality, saying nobody should "fall for this speculation that there had been thousands or even millions of instances of data misuse on behalf of the BKA or other security agencies."

However, Mayer admitted that urgent action was needed. "It's not ok when false and erroneous is being stored," he said, calling for a thorough examination of the BKA's data-storing practices.

dm/kms (dpa, AFP)

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