(Cyrus Farivar) Patrick Sensburg, chairman of the German parliament’s National Security Agency investigative committee, now says he’s considering expanding the use of manual typewriters to carry out his group’s work.
In an appearance (German language) Monday morning on German public television, Sensburg said that the committee is taking its operational security very seriously. “In fact, we already have [a typewriter], and it’s even a non-electronic typewriter,” he said.
If Sensburg’s suggestion takes flight, the country would be taking a page out of the Russian playbook. Last year, the agency in charge of securing communications from the Kremlin announced that it wanted to spend 486,000 rubles (about $14,800) to buy 20 electric typewriters as a way to avoid digital leaks.
Speaking of security
Sensburg’s announcement came the same day that German authorities arrested a “Markus R.,” an employee of the German spy agency called the BND. Markus had been accused of spying for the CIA.
Markus allegedly approached the CIA via e-mail in 2012 to share German intelligence, and the offer was accepted. He is accused of providing 218 documents over three in-person meetings with CIA agents in Austria, and he was paid about $34,000. Local authorities only detected Markus in May 2014 because he allegedly sent an unencrypted e-mail to the Russian consulate in Munich that was intercepted by German intelligence.
Last week, Berlin expelled the CIA’s station chief in the country in the wake of the spying row, the latest sign that relations between the two longstanding allies are fraying. Late last year, the German government accused the NSA of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Klaus Scharioth, the former German ambassador to the United States, went so far as to call the present situation theworst crisis in US-German relations since World War II.
Sensburg, though, is no luddite. In addition to the typewriting initiative, he announced publicly that he was going to have a security audit performed on his smartphone. “I’m going to ask the other chairmen and committee members to have their phones checked at once,” Sensburg said.
That declaration came just one day after German media reported (Google Translate) that two members of the German parliament—including a former member of the intelligence committee—had their phones compromised.
“We have to try to keep our internal communication sure to send encrypted e-mails, use crypto phones and other things, and other things that I won’t mention, of course,” Sensburg noted.
The German NSA committee, founded in March 2014, is charged (PDF) with specifically investigating “whether, in what way, and on what scale” the US and its Five Eyes allies “collected or are collecting data” to, from, and within Germany.
For months, Sensburg has been trying to figure out a way to get NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to testify before his committee, possibly via secure video conference from a Moscow embassy of an ally. Despite other German politicians’ best efforts, bringing Snowden to Germany for questioning—much less asylum—seems impossible.
“A questioning in Germany remains an option,” Sensburg told Der Spiegel in May 2014. “But I doubt very much that he would accept that because there is an extradition request from the United States based on the serious accusation that he committed acts of treason. There is no basis whatsoever for granting him political asylum in Germany. In its expert opinion, the German federal government made it clear that Snowden would have to expect extradition proceedings the moment he stepped off a plane here.”