Legendary hacker group CCC files complaint against German government over surveillance

The Chaos Computer Club (CCC), one of the oldest hacker collectives in the world and still Europe’s largest, has filed a criminal complaint against the German government and heads of Germany’s intelligence agencies.

Alongside the New York-based International League for Human Rights (ILHR), the 32-year-old hacker group accuses the government and three intelligence agencies of “illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, of aiding and abetting of those activities, of violation of the right to privacy and obstruction of justice in office by bearing and cooperating with the electronic surveillance of German citizens by NSA and GCHQ.”

The CCC wants to call Edward Snowden as a witness. It wants him to be able to travel safely to Germany, without risk of extradition to the U.S., from Russia, where he has been stranded since the U.S. cancelled his passport while he was in transit to Ecuador.

According to a statement from CCC lawyer Julius Mittenzwei:

“Every citizen is affected by the massive surveillance of their private communications. Our laws protect us and threatens those responsible for such surveillance with punishment. Therefore an investigation by the Federal Prosecutor General is necessary and mandatory by law – and a matter of course. It is unfortunate that those responsible and the circumstances of their crimes have not been investigated.”

Surveillance within Germany is a very sensitive subject. The laws against it are tight, being largely inspired by the country’s experiences with the surveillance-happy Nazis and Stasi. However, the Cold War also saw several NSA facilities set up within Germany, and the Americans still enjoy close cooperation with the BND signals intelligence agency, the BfV domestic intelligence agency and the BSI, Germany’s federal information security office.

The CCC statement refers to NSA facilities such as the Dagger Complex near Frankfurt, saying their visibility does not excuse the failure of public offices to investigate what the Snowden revelations have demonstrated regarding unlawful activities.

The Snowden documents have shown that the NSA and its partners gather vast amounts of data from Germany, and have also made clear that the NSA gave the German agencies access to the XKeyScore system that lets them search through the fruits of that surveillance.

There has indeed been no investigation of this within Germany, although the German federal prosecutor is reportedly weighing up the diplomatic ramifications of investigating the hacking of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone by the NSA.

This is not the first NSA/GCHQ-related legal action to be associated with the CCC – Constanze Kurz, a spokeswoman for the group, is a plaintiff (alongside British civil rights groups) in a case against the British government that is being fast-tracked by the European Court of Human Rights.