Statewatch News Online: Germany/North Africa: German police instructed Tunisia and Egypt on internet surveillance prior to the Arab Spring

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Germany/North Africa
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. [1] 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:

  • From 24-28 October 2010 a "training course about open source internet analysis in the field of international terrorism" was held for the Egyptian State Security Agency;
  • From 10-12 February 2009 a training course about "cybercrime in the field of terrorism" was held for the Algerian authorities at the African Centre for Studies and Research on Terrorism (CAERT);
  • From 23-27 November 2008 a training course about "cybercrime/financial investigation in the field of terrorism" was held for the "Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate" (GID);
  • From 26 November - 31 December 2007 IBM analytic software was demonstrated to Morocco's Direction Générale de la Sûreté Nationale (General Directory of National Security, DGSN). The company's i2 Analyst's Notebook software is available over the counter and used by all constitutional security agencies. Furthermore from 11-14 August 2008 a working visit was made to the DGSN on the topic of "cybercrime/field of terrorism". From 7-9 October 2008 a training course about "cybercrime/field of terrorism" was held for the DGSN;
  • From 25-27 October 2008 a training course about 'cybercrime in the field of terrorism' was held for the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as well as a training course over the period of 10-14 October 2009 on "cybercrime in the field of terrorism" with the Saudi interior ministry;
  • From 3-9 May 2008 a training course on "police operational tactics and methods on demonstrations" was held for the Tunisian Police Judiciaire;
  • From 22 - 26 November 2010 a training course about open source internet analysis in the field of terrorism was held for the Tunisian Direction de la Securité Extérieure (Directorate of External Security, DSE).

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. [2] The BKA travelled across Europe, North America and Israel to explain the use of German Trojans. [3]

Later, the British firm Gamma International was invited to join the workshops and explain their spyware. [4] 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. [5]

Before the revolution, the Tunisian government operated a broad variety of surveillance technologies. [6] 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. [7]

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. [8]

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. [9] 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. [10]

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. [11] 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. [12]

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. [13]

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 [14] - 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. [15]

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. [16] 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." [17] 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." [18] 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." [19]

Contributed by Matthias Monroy -

Further reading

[1] Bundesministerium des Innern, Ausbildung in Ländern des Arabischen Frühlings zu "neuen Ermittlungstechniken", zur Internetüberwachung und zum Abhören von Telekommunikation, 18 April 2013
[2] Chaos Computer Club, Chaos Computer Club analysiert Staatstrojaner, 18 October 2011
[3] State Trojans: Germany exports "spyware with a badge" by Kees Hudig, Statewatch Journal, Vol 21 No 4, October-December 2011
[4] Matthias Monroy, Tupper-Party mit Trojanern auch in Kanada, USA und Israel, Heise Online, 14 March 2012
[5] Chloe Shuffrey, Our OECD complaint against Gamma International and Trovicor, Privacy International, 5 February 2013
[6] Ben Wagner, Exporting censorship and surveillance technology, Hivos, January 2012
[7] Markus Beckedahl, Zwischen Euphorie und Sorge: Das Dritte Arabische Bloggertreffen in Tunis, Netzpolitik, 10 October 2011
[8] Konrad Lischka, Software aus dem Westen: Schnüffel-Angebot für Ägyptens Stasi, Spiegel Online, 8 March 2011
[9] Tunisia: upholding of blogger's seven-year jail sentence for 'insulting Islam' condemned, Amnesty, 26 April 2013
[10] Tunisia: Freedom of Expression is in Danger. A Call to Defend and Protect It, Nawaat, 25 April 2013
[11] Andrej Hunko, Frage Nr. 36, 20 March 2013
[12] Drucksache 17/12971, 3 April 2013
[13] Drucksache 17/9894, 6 June 2012; Germany: Plan to export hundreds of tanks to Saudi Arabia sparks fierce opposition, Statewatch News Online, July 2012; The Arab Spring of “Security made in Germany” by Eric Töpfer, Statewatch Journal, Vol 21 No 3, July-September 2011
[14] Bernd Reinhardt, Fifth German secret service resignation in NSU far-right terror scandal, 3 December 2012
[15] Andrej Hunko, BKA perfektionierte die Geheimpolizei Tunesiens und Ägyptens zur Überwachung des Internet, 28 April 2013
[16] Euromed Police
[17] 2nd training seminar Euromed Police III Project "Fight against Cyber terrorism" Madrid 16-20/04/2012, Euromed Police
[18] Saint-Cyr au Mont d'Or (France), from the 28th of January to the 1st of March 2013, semianr on "Forensic techniques and procedures", Euromed Police
[19] Annex 1: Action Fiche for "Euromed Police III"

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