28 March 2012
German police instructed Tunisia and Egypt on internet surveillance prior to revolutions
The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) instructed the authorities of multiple North African and Middle Eastern countries in internet surveillance in the years running up to the Arab Spring, according to information released by the German government following questioning by Die Linke (Left Party) in April 2013.  Training in Tunisia and Egypt occurred shortly before the revolts in those countries, where control of the internet played a key role in allowing the government to undermine the uprisings.
Participants in the BKA-run courses were secret service-like police forces, such as the Egyptian State Security Service ("Staatssicherheitsdienst"). Agencies from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Algeria also benefited from the seminars. Furthermore, Moroccan agencies received material aid including, among other things, police analytic software developed by IBM. The German government's reply to the questions from Die Linke says:
The newly published details recall the BKA's promotion of the German Trojan software that was exposed by the Chaos Computer Club in October 2011.  The BKA travelled across Europe, North America and Israel to explain the use of German Trojans. 
Later, the British firm Gamma International was invited to join the workshops and explain their spyware.  Gamma, along with the German firm Trovicor GmbH, are currently subject of a complaint to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) initiated by several NGOs who allege the firm breached human rights standards by exporting software to Bahrain and many other countries, sometimes disguised as a Mozilla internet browser. 
Before the revolution, the Tunisian government operated a broad variety of surveillance technologies.  According to speeches at a bloggers' conference in Tunis in October 2011 the country received cheap beta-versions of surveillance software from western developers for tests. 
Egypt was also a point of interest for companies: the State Security Agency building was stormed by protesters during the revolution, where they found documents outlining a sales offer from Elaman, a German offshoot of Gamma international. 
Collaboration between German police and intelligence services intensifies with "security sector reform"
Many bloggers in Tunisia and Egypt were arrested and tortured prior to and during the uprisings. The training and assistance in internet surveillance given by the BKA might have helped in tracking down bloggers and other internet activists. Arrests are still ongoing: last month an internet activist in Tunisia was sentenced to 7 years jail.  This situation led to many Tunisian civil and human rights organisations launching an appeal in April 2013 calling for attention to these violations of the right to freedom of expression. 
German government agencies continued working with Egypt and Tunisia after the revolutions in both countries. Several weeks ago the Department for Foreign Affairs announced that the two secret services of the Federal Ministry of the Interior would help to improve the Tunisian security sector.  This involves working on "security sector reform" in the context of a "transformational partnership" between Germany and Tunisia. The Federal Police will provide training for the reconstruction of migration controls, including workshops on technologies for border security at airports and at sea, at a cost of around 650,000.
The BKA will also run workshops covering topics such as the detection of drug smuggling, vehicle crime and staff recruitment. Additional training courses will examine issues such as securing crime scenes, which normally includes the use of digital forensics to obtain evidence from mobile phones, computers and other forms of media storage. In November 2012 the BKA organised a seminar on police strategies at demonstrations. The training was carried out by staff from the German federal state of Hessen. 
BKA officials also conducted investigations to recover the financial assets and properties of former Tunisian president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia. The investigations were initiated by Tunisia with the German Federal Justice Department via diplomatic channels. Nevertheless the German federal government rejected facilitating the extradition of Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia, with whom Germany frequently trades arms and security technology. 
What is likely to be the most controversial German contribution to the Tunisian "security sector reform" program comes from the intelligence services. Since spring 2012, the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) - which has been publicly discredited by its role in the fascist "Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund" (National Socialist Underground) affair, during which a number of racist murders carried out by neo-Nazis remained unresolved for 10 years  - have been giving training to Tunisian intelligence agents about the role of the "intelligence services in a democracy".
This is effectively a continuation of the collaboration which began under Ben Ali, when the BKA instructed Tunisian agencies in "counter-terrorism". Further contributions on the same issue - "counter-terrorism" - are now being given by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, but their content remains unknown. 
Additional workshops on wiretapping telecommunications, by order of the EU
To support the "security sector reform" in Tunisia the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enlargement sent 14 specialists on "Technical Assistance and Information Exchange" to Tunisia.
The European Union also sponsors the triennial 5 million "Euromed Police" project.  Through this, police forces from Arabic and North African states are trained in international collaboration, focusing on new technologies and investigation techniques. "Euromed Police" is for members of the police, quasi-military gendarmerie, special forces and specialised financial investigation and cybercrime departments and participants include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and the Palestinian National Authority.
One of the 18 workshops in the Euromed Police project was named "Analysing how terrorist groups use Internet or social networks."  In another workshop, 28 delegates from South Mediterranean countries were taught "investigation techniques liable to detect such activities" using forensic tools "in the field of electronic communication."  The agenda covered "finger printing, DNA identification, ballistics, sound and voice analysis, paintings analysis, drugs analysis, foot and tyre prints analysis, computers/mobile phones/USB keys analysis." The training course lasted for several weeks and was conducted by officers from the French police and gendarmerie.
A document outlining the Euromed Police project states that in the field of investigations looking at terrorist financing, cyber-terrorism, violent radicalisation, and the recruitment and training of terrorists:
"[P]articular attention should be given to investigation techniques, with a main focus on new technologies, internet investigation, investigation concerning file sharing websites (such as Youtube), investigation and interception of electronic communications (such as those through mobile phones or Skype-like communications), scientific and forensic evidence." 
Contributed by Matthias
Monroy - http://digit.gipfelsoli.org
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