Jörg Schindler

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“Spying among friends, that isn’t done,” Angela Merkel has said, but the absolutely least surprising thing in this period of constant shocks is that Germany was apparently spying on America as America was spying on Germany. Of course.

Nearly three years ago, I assumed that at the very least “Germany didn’t want to delve too deeply into NSA spying because Germany has been complicit in it.” It isn’t surprising the surveillance was bilateral at least during the first decade of this century because one truism about the technological tools we’ve created is they will be used. The argument that we’ve managed to (mostly) not employ nuclear weapons so we can control privacy-obliterating devices is silly because these instruments and methods are decentralized and available to all, and governments and corporations and individuals will give in to the temptation to use them regardless of the law.

Also: Spying isn’t one big boom but instead death by a thousand cuts. Each individual act won’t feel calamitous. In Errol Morris parlance, these surveillance tools are fast, cheap and will continually be out of control.

From “German Intelligence Also Snooped on White House,” a Spiegel piece by Maik Baumgärtner, Martin Knobbe and Jörg Schindler:

Documents that Spiegel has been able to review show that the BND, until a few years ago, actually had considerable interest in the United States as a target of espionage. The document states that just under 4,000 search terms, or selectors, were directed against American targets between 1998 and 2006. It is unknown whether they continued to be used after those dates.

The German intelligence agency used the selectors to surveil telephone and fax numbers as well as email accounts belonging to American companies like Lockheed Martin, the space agency NASA, the organization Human Rights Watch, universities in several U.S. states and military facilities like the U.S. Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency, the secret service agency belonging to the American armed forces. Connection data from far over 100 foreign embassies in Washington, from institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Washington office of the Arab League were also accessed by the BND’s spies.

The entries also prove the existence of a top-secret anti-terror alliance between Western intelligence services, including those of Germany, the United States and France. Spiegel already reported back in 2005 on the elite unit, which is named Camolin. The papers now show several BND selectors were “Camolin-related.”

It’s Unlikely Spying Was Unintentional
 
Also on the selector list were lines at the U.S. Treasury Department, the State Department and the White House. Were they really all just “coincidental capture” as the former BND head claimed? Was it just an oversight?

That’s unlikely.•

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Amazing that with all the contact between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the election, Wikileaks gathered no information on the subject. Not one iota. Nor was there anything about Mike Flynn’s untoward overseas ties. Perhaps its relying too much on Russian hackers for its information?

WikiLeaks’ modus operandi over the last couple of years probably wouldn’t have been markedly different if it were in the hands of Paul Manfort rather than Julian Assange, so it’s not surprising the organization recently leaked a trove of (apparently overhyped) documents about CIA surveillance just as Trump was being lambasted from both sides of the aisle for baselessly accusing his predecessor for “wiretapping.”

The timing is familiar if you recall that WikiLeaks began releasing Clinton campaign emails directly after the surfacing of a video that recorded Trump’s boasts of sexual assault. With all this recent history, is it any surprise Assange mockingly described himself as a “deplorable when chiding Twitter for refusing verify his account?

Whistleblowers are often a godsend to a society, but not all leakers are born equal.

On the day it was revealed that Sweden has dropped its sexual-assault investigation of Assange (which doesn’t mean he’s innocent), Michael Sontheimer and Jörg Schindler of Spiegel published a Q&A with a man who’s bothersome–or far worse. An excerpt:

Spiegel:

You don’t care if WikiLeaks influences the outcome of elections?

Julian Assange:

WikiLeaks is made up of human beings who have different political views. But we cannot undermine our publicly given commitments, our publicly stated principles.

Spiegel:

And these principles require that you publish authentic documents as quickly as possible, regardless of who benefits or is damaged?

Julian Assange:

That’s our current policy, which might be changed under extreme circumstances.

Spiegel:

What sort of circumstances?

Julian Assange:

If we were on the brink of a nuclear war and a WikiLeaks publication could be misinterpreted, then it would make sense to delay the publication.

Spiegel:

You didn’t delay the publication of the material which harmed Clinton.

Julian Assange:

We are not in this business for likes. WikiLeaks publishes documents about powerful organizations. WikiLeaks always will always be the bad boy.

Spiegel:

What do you have to say to people who accuse WikiLeaks, among others, of being responsible for Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president?

Julian Assange:

WikiLeaks revealed the dirty tactics of the Clinton campaign. Some voters took it in. It was their free choice to do so. That’s their right. That’s democracy.

Spiegel:

As secretary of state, Clinton sought to take action against WikiLeaks. Was the publication of Democratic Party documents a kind of vendetta?

Julian Assange:

That is U.S. East Coast psychobabble. The reason that WikiLeaks follows its principles is because one man has a problem? No! But here is some historic irony behind it. Clinton was involved in putting our alleged source Chelsea Manning in prison. There seems to be some natural justice.

Spiegel:

You derived satisfaction from her loss?

Julian Assange:

. . .

Spiegel:

You are smiling.•

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A little more from Spiegel about the Islamic State, a terrorist group that is also a crime organization, as pretty much all terrorist groups are. Markus Dettmer and Jörg Schindler interview terror expert Louise Shelley about the bankrolling methods of the beheaders. An excerpt:

Spiegel:

In your new book, Dirty Entanglements: Corruption, Crime and Terrorism, you write that every terrorist success story starts like the establishment of a successful business: with the collection of seed money. In al-Qaida’s case, the money originated from Osama bin Laden’s fortune. Where does Islamic State’s seed money come from?

Louise Shelley:

From two sources. The antecedents of IS received donations from the Gulf States, but now it has smaller, new contributions from many locales. The smuggling routes they are now using were also used during the post-invasion period for low-level smuggling — of cigarettes and pornography.

Spiegel:

Pornography?

Louise Shelley:

Yes, I was also surprised that there was such trade in the region now under IS control. Now, IS is financing itself largely through the oil trade, but also many other activities. It is a diversified criminal operation.

Spiegel:

What sort of activities?

Louise Shelley:

With looted art from the occupied territories, for example. It is sold via Ebay, at art fairs or in premium antiquarian shops in Europe. But that does not really bring in a lot of money because the market is limited. The terrorists think quite broadly about their sources of financial support and the number of potential customers for expensive items is small. IS taxes trade, they make money from the passports sold by foreign fighters, they sell mobile phones, trade in illicit cigarettes and engage in kidnapping as well as human smuggling and trafficking. And, of course, the arms trade. Other terrorist groups make money selling pirated CDs and DVDs. Counterfeit goods, forged passports and documents, the illicit wildlife trade and drugs earn a lot for terrorist groups.”

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My guess is that Germany doesn’t want to delve too deeply into NSA spying because Germany has been complicit in it. Snowden lawyer Jesselyn Radack and former NSA spy Thomas Drake were just interviewed by Spiegel’s Sven Becker, Marcel Rosenbach and Jörg Schindler about the agency. I really, really wish there was some follow-up questions to points made in the following passage:

Spiegel:

The NSA argues that, in the war against terrorism, in order to find the needle in the haystack, we need lots of hay.

Jesselyn Radack:

If you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, you don’t make the haystack bigger. The US government is fear mongering when it claims: “If you’re against surveillance, the next terrorist attack is on you!”

Spiegel:

What is the true reason for the data collection?

Jesselyn Radack:

It’s about population control. And economic espionage.

Thomas Drake:

One of the big elephants in the room is Germany with its engineers. It’s extraordinarily tempting to know what’s going on here — new products, new methodologies, new approaches.”

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