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Germans protest US surveillance

July 27, 2013

People have taken to the streets across Germany to protest against NSA spying. Berlin, meanwhile, has appointed a diplomat to defend Germany's interests in cyberspace in the face of the NSA scandal.

A participant holds up a picture of former NSA employee Edward Snowden with the word 'asylum' written above it at a protest gathering in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate against the electonic surveillance tactics of the NSA on Saturday, July 27, 2013. (Photo: Sean Gallus/Getty Images)
Image: Getty Images

Thousands of people took to the streets of Germany on Saturday to protest against surveillance by the NSA. The Green Party, the Pirate Party, the global alliance "Stop Watching Us" and several NGOs called protests in more than 30 German cities.

According to police, 2,000 people participated in demonstrations in Hamburg, while 1,000 turned out in Frankfurt am Main. Five-hundred people showed up in Berlin and Karlsruhe respectively. Hundreds more demonstrated in Dresden, Leipzig, Stuttgart, Tübingen and Ulm.

"The people have had enough of the attempts by Angela Merkel and her government to cover up the scandal and placate the people," said Malte Spitz, a member of the Green Party's national committee.

"If millions of people are being permanently subjected to surveillance, then it restricts their freedom and lacks any measure of proportionality."

Cyber commissioner appointed

Meanwhile, the German Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday that it had established an office for cyber issues, confirming a report by the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has appointed diplomat Dirk Brengelmann to the new post. Brengelmann previously worked for NATO from 2008-2010 as an assistant secretary general of political issues and security policy.

According to the foreign ministry, Brengelmann will represent Germany's interests on cyber policy at the international level. The new position is modeled after the US State Department's coordinator for cyber issues.

Intelligence agencies deny misconduct

The head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency said on Saturday that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was not collecting data in Germany. The news magazine Der Spiegel had reported earlier in the week that the NSA had given German intelligence services access to a data collection program called "XKeyscore."

"XKeyscore is not a spy program, it's an analysis program," domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maaßen told the daily Die Welt newspaper, adding that his agency was only "testing" the program.

Maaßen went on to say that there was no substance to accusations of misconduct by German intelligence agencies regarding surveillance activities.

But the political opposition has continued to hammer Chancellor Angela Merkel for not doing enough to protect German citizens' privacy rights in the face of alleged snooping by US intelligence agencies. The center-left Social Democratic candidate for chancellor, Peer Steinbrück, accused Merkel of being uncritical of the US and having a lax approach toward the surveillance scandal.

"There were massive violations of fundamental rights in Germany by foreign intelligence agencies," Steinbrück said.

slk/tm (AP, AFP, dpa, EPD, Reuters)