ambiguity at work

There’s this story going round that the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) tapped an Afghan Ministry – which stirred up some dust on their work. The issue came into limelight when journalist of the SPIEGEL realized that they were also being monitored due to conversations they had with an Afghan Minister in the past.

Now, I am not the person to deliver any facts or details on this particular story, but I really have to wonder about some fellow Germans who apparently think that there’s anything wrong about this procedure…Well, is it?

I leave it to you to decide if an Intelligence Agency (responsible for foreign affairs) *should* use all available technical facilities to monitor all electronic communication. Obviously, this also is a a) a political decision and b) if *they* think it’s appropriate, they will do it – with or without a political or legal mandate.

What really worries me though is this new law in Germany that gives so much more power into the wrong hands and which enables them to monitor all electronic (communication) data within the country.
Only ~ 30.000 ppl out of ~ 80 Million registered with a lawyer in Berlin to impeach the Government on their behalf on this issue. I am one of them. We all HAD the chance of taking the Government to court on this stupid and dangerous law, but only a relatively few took the opportunity of doing so. Main excuse: “I don’t have anything to hide..”. As IF that was reason enough to accept this law without regarding the personal consequences this really implies. I did have some nasty conversations – even with relatives – on this issue and it always appeared to me that they never really wanted to understand the impact this will have on everyone of us in future. Ppl just dont’t want to understand it.

Oh, terrorism? “Terror(ism) is what they do to us”.

My colleague Chris also blogged on this in English earlier this year in a very comprehensive article.

Now, according to this article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), all e-mail traffic of the named Afghan Ministry is said to be done via Yahoo!.

And this is exactly where I thought: WHAT THE….why-o-why are they still using Yahoo!?????

Take Afghanistan and replace that word with any other country. ANY! I am sure there are hundreds or thousands of potential victims out there (including me) who haven’t yet really protected their online activities or who don’t even know about how to engage protective measurements.

We do have a Federal Office in Germany – the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik – that provides directives and trainings on how to secure your online activities. Only, they are not being applied in this particular case, because if they were serious on this, they could have told the Afghan Ministry to stop using Yahoo! & other free (unsecured) webmailers. And politicians often aren’t the ones who think in IT-security terms. Hell, who does? So if they don’t know, it’s easier to spy on them. Simple as that. Besides, everyone knows that everyone is spying on everyone.

Case in point: I’ve seen many many fellow ppl working in the Government of Kenya who were using free webmailers. If you were interested in monitoring them, just wouldn’t need advanced equipment. And with the Government having access to GSM monitoring equipment, even cellular phones aren’t fully protected.
I believe there’s no 100% secure concept out there to protect you from any tapping or DDoS, so it’s up to you to decide what and to which extent you want to communicate online.

Another analogy to Kenya:

Six of the 20 Afghan cabinet ministers had spent part of their lives in Germany and spoke German, the newspaper said. Farhang holds a doctorate from the University of Cologne and taught at the University of Bochum before returning home. (source)

As long as there are interests and investments at stake, there will always be a monitoring of other parties, governments or just indivduals. With or without a political mandate, with or without any moral obligations and regardless of any “good relationships” with deployed politicians. Raila of course knows this, but hey: as long as the GoK keeps on buying Mercedes and strucks some maintenance deals for the fleet – why worry?

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  1. Sadly, things are never as they seem and when the onion is peeled off, we realize that the truth really is sometimes not the truth.