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Politicians Question Government Surveillance Deal

Germany's interior and justice ministries have agreed on a new set of online surveillance guidelines. But some politicians doubt whether the proposed law meets strict rules mandated by the country's highest court.

Telephone cable

Guidelines for surveillance of computers remain controversial

Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) parliamentary group said it would not blindly pass a law formulating new guidelines for the surveillance of personal computers in cases of suspected terrorism or other serious crimes.

"We are going to carefully review whether the legislative draft corresponds with the restrictive parameters laid out by Germany's Constitutional Court, and reserve the right to veto," the group's expert on domestic affairs, Klaus-Uwe Benneter, told the daily Berliner Zeitung on Wednesday, April 16.

Two hands typing at a laptop keyboard

Authorities won't be allowed to handle suspects' computers to install spy software

He said regular, careful monitoring would have to occur to ensure that the proposed law is properly applied. He also said those who have been under surveillance must also be informed that their computers were examined.

Staying the course

Germany's Christian Democrats (CDU), with whom the Social Democrats are in a ruling coalition, have called on the SPD to agree to the guidelines. Wolfgang Bosbach, the CDU's deputy parliamentary leader, told the newspaper, "When the SPD continues to stir things up, people would begin throwing up their hands in frustration -- they wouldn't understand it."

Bosbach said the CDU had already met the SPD half-way. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble, a CDU member, had already conceded by revoking his wish to allow police to enter suspects' apartments to install spy software on their computers, Bosbach told public broadcaster ARD Tuesday evening.

The SPD had rejected that measure, which did not make it into the final version of the proposed law.

Opposition parties also issued their displeasure with the proposal.

"Piece by piece, our privacy is obviously dying," Green party member Hans-Christian Stroebele told ARD.

Only under special circumstances

In February, the nation's highest court established that the privacy of data stored or exchanged on personal computers is a basic right protected by the constitution; surveillance is therefore permitted only in exceptional cases.

Wolfgang Bosbach

The CDU's Bosbach said the SPD should stay the agreed-to course

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said on Tuesday that they had agreed on the new framework to conform with that legal ruling from the court.

It was the last hurdle in putting together new guidelines for Germany's domestic intelligence services, which will now be sent to the country's states for further discussion.

Schaeuble's spokesperson said that once the drafted law had gone to the states, it could then be presented to the cabinet before the summer recess.

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