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German Spying Loophole and Internet Privacy Drafting at UN, Linked?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- Days after a watered down German draft resolution on spying was adopted without objection in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee, it's reported that a loophole in German law allows it to spy on their own citizens.

  The loophole involves German nationals working abroad for foreign corporations - in that capacity, they lose protection, as the communications are viewed as non-German. The Guardian:

"a former BND lawyer told parliament this week that citizens working abroad for foreign companies were not protected. The German government confirmed on Saturday that work-related calls or emails were attributed to the employer. As a result, if the employer is foreign, the BND could legally intercept them."

  In this loophole, it appears, would for example be German journalists working for other than Germany media.

  While the positions of the US, Canada and others were blamed for watering down the UNGA resolution, this too may be relevant.

  When this "Right to Privacy in the Internet Age" resolution came to the floor in the UN's Third (Human Rights) Committee on November 25, German Ambassador Harald Braun summarized its new elements: the inclusion of metadata, obligations by the private sector, effective remedies for violations and an invitation to the UN Human Rights Council to establish a special procedure on the right to privacy.

  He did not mention the loophole, which would be reported days later.

  While Braun cited US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, the resolution was adopted by consensus - that is, no country, including the United States, objected.

  International law, if it exists, is incremental. And is subject to undisclosed conflicts.

 Back on July 9, First Look's "The Intercept" revealed that the US NSA and FBI spied on at least five Americans, all Muslims, and used place-holder code names like "Raghead," click here for that.

   Those spied on included a Republican candidate for the Virginia legislature, Faisal Gill; Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor; lawyer Asim Ghafoor; Nihad Awad of CAIR; and "Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights."

  The United Nations' Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has already said he thinks Snowden "misused" information, as Inner City Press reported here.

  Back on March 14 when the US delegation to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva took the floor, it was a full court press. Of the elephant in the room, NSA spying, the speaker from the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice used a single line: DOJ is "monitoring" a number of private actions. You don't say.

  The head of the US delegation, Mary McLeod, said but did not explain why the US Administration has "no current expectation to become a party to the optional protocol" to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- which the US says does not apply to its actions outside of its borders.

The session closed with a slew of questions: Walter Kalin asked why the US deports people to Haiti even amid the cholera epidemic -- for which, Inner City Press notes, the US has said the UN should be immune. Watch this site.


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