Expanded power approved for German police

20th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

The bill allows expanded access by the German police to gather information from the computers, telephones and homes of suspected terrorists.

Berlin -- Germany's police will get new powers to fight terrorism under a revised law approved by the upper house of parliament in Berlin on Friday.

The controversial bill increases the capabilities of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) to gather information from the computers, telephones and homes of suspected terrorists.

Critics say the new law could impinge on people's civil liberties and risks turning Germany into a Big Brother state.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble welcomed the bill, saying it gave the BKA the powers to conduct preventive measures necessary "to combat international terrorism successfully."

The upper house, or Bundesrat, voted 35-34 in favor of the law, a day after the lower house backed the new version with the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats.

The original version was rejected by the Bundesrat, which represents Germany's 16 federal states, requiring it to go to arbitration by a committee of both chambers of parliament.

The bill reforms the federal police and includes powers to break into personal computers during preventive inquiries into terrorism and other serious crime.

The revised bill requires a judge to authorize police access to a suspect's personal computer and for a court to oversee the search of data by law enforcement officers.

It also clarifies the jurisdiction for such searches between the federal government and state authorities.

Police have been studying whether they could either enter premises to plant monitoring devices in computers or send viruses to the computers via the Internet so that investigators could covertly read the hard disks.

Legislators, clergymen and defense lawyers are fully protected from such searches, but journalists, lawyers and doctors are not.

Opposition party The Left's spokeswoman Petra Pau spoke of a "black Friday," and said the introduction of the bill would change Germany for the worse.


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