Federal Intelligence Service’s Surveillance Requests Almost Always Approved by Control Council

Federal intelligence service: Control Council waves through almost all surveillance requests

The Independent Control Council for the Federal Intelligence Service, known as the UKR, has submitted its first written report to the German Parliamentary Control Committee regarding surveillance measures carried out by the agency. According to the report, the council has only objected to one of the 121 surveillance requests it has reviewed since being established in 2022. The council, made up primarily of judges from the Federal Court of Justice and the Federal Administrative Court, was created to oversee orders from the head of the foreign intelligence service.

The UKR examined various surveillance applications made by the agency, including hacking operations in which agents infiltrate chats via online communication platforms, telephone tapping, and the reading of emails. The report also revealed that 54% of the BND’s measures from the previous year were related to mass surveillance, specifically strategic telecommunications reconnaissance, which has been a subject of controversy for years.

The Federal Constitutional Court had previously declared the BND’s “data vacuum cleaner” unconstitutional, but the Bundestag deemed it indispensable, allowing the agency to continue using selectors to search through network communication despite the court’s decision. The UKR was established to prevent unchecked use of selectors and other surveillance methods, and agents have reportedly been cooperative in granting access to selectors and sharing relevant documents, data and technology with the council.

Despite the overall cooperation, the report did note frustration among agents in the department for technical reconnaissance in Pullach, which has had to apply for surveillance actions with detailed reasons, often spanning several pages. 40% of the scouting operations were targeted towards specific individuals, while the remaining 6% were considered “qualified reconnaissance measures” that involved the use of state Trojans on computers or mobile phones. The UKR’s only objection to a surveillance order was related to a request made to spy on the connections of a German company abroad, which the council deemed not to be covered by BND law. The council recommended the identification of specific targets for the requested spying operation.

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