German federal prosecutor considers formal NSA investigation

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Germany’s federal prosecutor is considering if there is enough evidence to warrant a formal, criminal investigation into the German government’s alleged involvement in the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) data collection program, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Privacy and human rights campaigners including the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), the International League for Human Rights (ILMR) and Digitalcourage on Monday filed a criminal complaint against the German federal government and the presidents of the German secret services for their alleged involvement in illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, they said in a news release.

The complaint also targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German Minister of the Interior as well as U.S., British and German secret agents who are all accused of violating the right to privacy and obstruction of justice by cooperating with the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ to electronically spy on German citizens, they said.

According to the groups, these activities are felonies and violate German criminal law. “With this criminal complaint, we hope to finally initiate investigations by the Federal Prosecutor General against the German government,” they said.

However, for the moment it remains unclear if the group’s effort is going to have the intended effect.

The Federal Prosecutor General of the Federal Court of Justice, located in Karlsruhe, did not yet receive the group’s criminal complaint, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor said. But when they do, it wouldn’t be the first, she said, declining to reveal how many complaints related to the NSA affair the federal prosecution had received.

The agency has taken very seriously the media reports about alleged mass monitoring of phone calls and emails from millions of German citizens as well as reports on the alleged spying of the chancellor’s mobile phone, she said.

Therefore, the attorney general has asked the relevant federal authorities to share their knowledge about the operations to achieve a secure factual basis for examining the initial suspicion, she said. But because not all the necessary comments are available it is too early to make a final decision about a formal criminal investigation, she said.

The groups called it “unacceptable that the public offices have not helped in the investigation of these crimes even if the spying is widely visible.” They also asked to hear Snowden as a technical expert and witness, and called on German citizens to file similar criminal complaints with the federal prosecution.

The criminal complaint follows similar complaints filed in France and Belgium, the campaigners said. In August, the French public prosecutor started a preliminary inquiry into allegations that the NSA spied on French citizens with its Prism program.

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