Boing Boing 

Germany is NSA's largest listening post, according to new report based on Snowden leaks

A general view of the large former monitoring base of the U.S. intelligence organization National Security Agency (NSA) during break of dawn in Bad Aibling south of Munich, July 11, 2013. Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended Germany's cooperation with U.S. intelligence, dismissing comparisons of its techniques to those used in communist East Germany in an attempt to ease tensions a day before talks on the thorny issue in Washington.   REUTERS/Michael Dalder


A general view of the large former monitoring base of the U.S. intelligence organization National Security Agency (NSA) during break of dawn in Bad Aibling south of Munich, July 11, 2013. Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended Germany's cooperation with U.S. intelligence, dismissing comparisons of its techniques to those used in communist East Germany in an attempt to ease tensions a day before talks on the thorny issue in Washington. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Using documents leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, Der Spiegel reports that the NSA has turned Germany into its most important base of operations in Europe. "NSA is more active in Germany than anywhere else in Europe," reports the paper, "And data collected here may have helped kill suspected terrorists."

The German archive provides the basis for a critical discussion on the necessity and limits of secret service work as well as on the protection of privacy in the age of digital communication. The documents complement the debate over a trans-Atlantic relationship that has been severely damaged by the NSA affair.

They paint a picture of an all-powerful American intelligence agency that has developed an increasingly intimate relationship with Germany over the past 13 years while massively expanding its presence. No other country in Europe plays host to a secret NSA surveillance architecture comparable to the one in Germany. It is a web of sites defined as much by a thirst for total control as by the desire for security. In 2007, the NSA claimed to have at least a dozen active collection sites in Germany.

The documents indicate that the NSA uses its German sites to search for a potential target by analyzing a "Pattern of Life," in the words of one Snowden file. And one classified report suggests that information collected in Germany is used for the "capture or kill" of alleged terrorists.

"New NSA Revelations: Inside Snowden's Germany File" [Der Spiegel]

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Mein Kleiner Grüner Kaktus: German novelty tune WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY

Here's my jam today: the Comedian Harmonists' "Mein Kleiner Grüner Kaktus," in a modern arrangement performed with a choir and orchestra at a concert hall in Maastricht. If this doesn't put you in a good mood, I don't wanna know about it.

Tomorrow: Berlin sunrise mass whistle-in to commemorate Snowden leaks


A reader writes, "Just after sunrise on June 5, the NK Projekt in Berlin is leading a massive whistle-blowing session to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Edward Snowden's own whistle blowing activities."

(Image: I want you to blow the whistle, Mike, CC-BY-SA)

Crowdfunding English translations of public-domain German science fiction


Bradley Hall writes, "I am trying to get funding via Indiegogo so that I can spend more time translating old public domain German sci-fi books. So far I have translated Robert Heymann's 'Der Rote Komet' (The Red Comet) and am currently working on Bernhard Kellerman's 'Der Tunnel' (The Tunnel). Neither of these books have been translated to English before."

English sf is greatly impoverished by the lack of translations from other languages. You meet German sf fans who're conversant with English, Danish, Swedish, Italian and French authors through translation. We get by on a little Lem and Strugatsky.

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Hitler's bookbinder

Michael Shaughnessy reports the untold story of Frieda Thiersch—and the mysteries of her life, her motives and her booksRead the rest

Comic strip etched into a human hair

The folks behind EHSM2, the upcoming maker/hacker conference in Hamburg, have released a video of comic strip that has been etched into a human hair using a focused ion beam. The comic, by Claudia Puhlfürst, can be seen in more detail in this github repo.

Spooky ruin and erotic car-wash

From the shrewd eye and camera of Regine Kelaita, an erotic car wash ad on a ruined mansion in Dresden (click through for full-size). (via Kadrey)

Edible cookbook embossed upon lasagne noodles


Korefe presents "The Real Cookbook," a book whose leaves are large lasagne noodles, impressed with a recipe for lasagne. As you read the recipe, you peel off each page and slather it with sauce and cheese, building up the dish described in its pages, leaving behind no trace save for your satisfied appetite and a slight propensity to insulin resistance.

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Bruno the bear's tragic demise commemorated in sleeping bag form


In 2006, Bruno the bear appeared in Bavaria, the first wild bear spotted in the region for 170. So they hunted him down and killed him.

Artist Eiko Ishizawa has commemorated Bruno's life and death with a sculptural sleeping bag shaped like Bruno's hide and head, which you climb into and zip shut. She's making a limited run, based on commissions. They're $2350 for adult bears and $2050 for kid-sized bears. If you buy one, Ishizawa would like you to photograph yourself in it around the world for a gallery of the wanderings of Bruno's avatars.

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German labor ministry bans after-hours email from managers to employees

The German labor ministry has banned managers from calling or emailing employees outside of working hours as a means of preventing "self-exploitation," wherein workers end up putting in hours while they're off the clock. This follows on from voluntary bans enacted by major German companies like Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom. Managers can contact employees after hours only under "exceptional circumstances."

NSA wiretapped 122 world leaders; GCHQ penetrated German satellite companies for mass surveillance potential


Newly disclosed documents from the trove Edward Snowden provided to journalists reveal the existence of the "Nymrod" database that listed 122 world leaders, many from nations friendly to the USA, that were spied upon by the NSA. Included in the list is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was already known to have been wiretapped by the NSA thanks to an earlier disclosure. Nymrod's "Target Knowledge Database" combed through the NSA's pool of global intercepts to amass dossiers of private communications -- emails, faxes, calls and Internet traffic -- related to the leaders.

Additionally, the UK spy agency GCHQ infiltrated and compromised two German satellite communications companies -- Stellar and Cetel -- and IABG, a company that supplied them with equipment. It wiretapped their senior executives as well. None of these companies are accused of having done anything amiss, but were targeted by British spies because their services carried Internet traffic and were a convenient "access chokepoint" from which to conduct mass-surveillance programs.

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Werkhaus: flat-pack housewares and accessories skinned with photos of scuffed, worn-in real-world stuff


I was in Berlin for the day yesterday to speak at a World Consumer Rights Day, and before I headed back to the airport, I dropped in at Werkhaus, a retail outlet that sells innovative, made-in-Germany flat-pack housewares that are skinned with beautiful photos of decayed, wabi-sabi surfaces from street furniture, antiques, and industrial apparatus. I bought one of their "Telefonstation" shelving units, designed to hold and charge your phones and mobile devices while disguising the charge-cables; the one I bought is skinned with the exterior of a scuffed and beaten Soviet pay-phone, with stenciled Cyrillic lettering.

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German beekeeping laws are weird: an excerpt from "The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance"

Earlier today, I reviewed a new book by Kevin "Lowering the Bar" Underhill called "The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance and Other Real Laws That Human Beings Have Actually Dreamed Up, Enacted, and Sometimes Even Enforced." Kevin kindly provided us with an excerpt from the book, a series of weird-but-true German beekeeping laws:


My swarm of bees has fled! What shall I do?

If you own a bunch of bees (known to bee experts as a “swarm”), and it flies away one day and ends up on somebody else’s property, who owns it?

It’s too bad they don’t teach bee law in school anymore, because this would be a great bar-exam question. Turns out that the German Civil Code has a set of rules about bee ownership in this situation that seems to cover the gamut of possible outcomes. Most importantly, the first rule of fleeing-bee procedure is that you must pursue the bees immediately. Otherwise any claim to swarm ownership will be waived:

Loss of ownership of bee swarms:
Where a swarm of bees takes flight, it becomes ownerless if the owner fails to pursue it without undue delay or if he gives up the pursuit.

Bees are not really considered “domesticated” in the full sense of the word, given that they have a habit of picking up and moving when­ever they want to and there isn’t much you can do about it, unless you thought ahead and took the time to make a shitload of bee leashes. As is the general rule with captured wild animals, if they get away they are considered to revert back to the wild and to unowned status. As long as you’re still pursuing them, though, there is hope.

German Civil Code § 960–61.

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Whistleblower: NSA secretly continues Merkel surveillance by bugging other German officials


An anonymous NSA leaker revealed to the German magazine Bild am Sonntag that the agency has been spying on senior German government figures. The move is apparently a response to Obama prohibiting the agency from spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel (or other world leaders) without his authorization -- by spying on the people with whom Merkel communicates, the agency is still able to intercept a large fraction of her most sensitive communications without presidential authorization.

Two amazing facts about this story:

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Call for papers: Re:Publica Berlin


Sandra writes, "What started as a 'class reunion' of bloggers, Internet activists, and researchers has become Europe's largest and most prominent conference on the future of our society and all things digital: re:publica, the Berlin based conference will happen again on 6-8 May 2014."

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Merkel compares NSA to Stasi

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a frank exchange of views with Barack Obama in which she compared the NSA to the Stasi. Merkel grew up in the former East Germany, where the Stasi secret police agency was a force of nearly unparalleled evil and corrosion. It's probably not an apt comparison: the NSA's digital wholesale spying makes the Stasi's towers of analog filing cabinets and jars full of odors look like a quaint kindergarten playground game of Orwell-and-Seek.

Rooster-faced warriors of 16th century Germany


16th century German soldiery sure understood how to strike terror into their enemies' hearts: the rooster-headed armored visor (ca 1530) must have been a sight to behold. Now on display at the Met in NYC (Bashford Dean Memorial Collection, Bequest of Bashford Dean, 1928)

Close Helmet with Mask Visor (via Neatorama)