German hacker collective files complaint over spying

The Chaos Computer Club, a activist hacker collective based in Germany, filed a criminal complaint against Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of her government on Monday, accusing them of violating the law by helping intelligence agencies in the United States and Britain to spy on German citizens.

The move comes days after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Berlin to try to smooth over relations that have been strained by revelations of the extent of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities in Germany. While filing the complaint with the Federal Prosecutor General is only a first step in the cumbersome German legal process and does not guarantee that an investigation will be opened, it demonstrates unwillingness by some here to drop the issue.

Along with the International League for Human Rights, based in New York, the 32-year-old hacker group said in the complaint that Ms. Merkel’s government and German intelligence agencies violated the personal privacy of German citizens through “illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, along with aiding and abetting such activities” by tolerating and cooperating with the N.S.A. and the British eavesdropping agency, known as GCHQ.

“Every German citizen has been affected by the massive surveillance of his or her communication data,” Julius Mittenzwei, a lawyer and member of the hacker group, said in a statement issued by the Chaos Computer Club. “Our laws protect us and threaten anyone responsible for such surveillance with punishment. Consequently, an investigation by the Federal Prosecutor General is necessary and mandatory by law.”

Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that every German citizen had the right to file such a complaint, but declined to comment further.

Germany’s debate of the N.S.A. has focused heavily on the extent to which the agency might have broken the law by carrying out surveillance in Germany. Information from documents released by Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former contractor for the agency, indicating that the chancellor’s cellphone had been monitored and that surveillance was being conducted from the United States Embassy in the heart of the city, helped fuel the debate.

But in an interview with Hubert Seipel, a reporter for the German public television station NDR, Mr. Snowden described the relationship between Germany’s foreign intelligence service, known by the initials BND, and the N.S.A. as “intimate.”

“They not only share information, the reporting of results from intelligence, but they actually share the tools and the infrastructure,” Mr. Snowden said. But he declined to say whether the German service was giving data to the N.S.A.

The Germans have sought unsuccessfully to draw up a “no-spying” agreement with Washington.

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