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Germany investigates blog for treason after it publishes leaked docs

None dare call it journalism.


Curt Hopkins


Posted on Jul 14, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 8:54 am CDT

Sources used by Germany’s most influential blog devoted to digital freedom, Netzpolitik, are being investigating for publishing leaked documents.

The chief of Germany’s domestic security service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has alleged that the publication divulged state secrets because of two articles, “Mass Data Processing of the Internet’s Content” and “Classified Department: We Unveil the New Unit of the German Domestic Secret Service to Extend Internet Surveillance,” published in February and April of respectively.

Both articles addressed the leak of a German intelligence plan to create a new division devoted to spying on domestic Internet use. It is the unidentified leaker behind that leak who is being targeted.

Netzpolitik editor Marcus Bergdahl is quoted in the publication he founded as explaining, “We have reported on this matter because we deem it necessary to start a social debate. Two years after Snowden’s revelations, the Federal Government has no better ideas than spending more and more money and responsibilities on largely uncontrolled secret services instead of ensuring a better control of secret services and reducing the system of total surveillance.”

The publication uploaded the original documents because their editorial philosophy is to supply as many primary sources as possible for their readership.

The charge, Bergdahl noted, came the day after the German parliament passed a measure allowing for expanded surveillance authority for the country’s domestic security agency.

The case is being prosecuted by the federal prosecutor’s office, one which is more commonly concerned with terrorism and espionage issues, such as the National Security Agency’s tapping of Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s phone.

“We see this,” said Bergdahl, “as an attempt to intimidate. Our present and prospective sources shall be discouraged. Additionally, we shall consider twice what about and how extensive we report.”

Given that the news magazine Der Spiegel and other German news publications have apparently been spied on covertly by the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency, the journalistic community in Germany are dismayed that those crimes are not being investigated, and instead, they themselves appear to be the targets of the German intelligence community.

Since before the time of George Grosz and Otto Dix Germany has been a place of dark ironies. A domestic spy outfit called the Office for the Protection of the Constitution using a prosecutorial division that handles terrorism crimes to beat down a whistleblower, and the news publication to which he or she gave important information, feels less like breaking news and more like a lost Kafka story falling out of an old copy of Der Stürmer.

These days, that is not an unfamiliar sensation anywhere in the West.

Photo via Alex Murphy/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Jul 14, 2015, 10:08 pm CDT