German courts may shut down bug operations

26th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 July 2004, BERLIN - Bugging operations aimed at terrorist suspects across Germany are in danger of being closed down under a new court ruling, the country's police union chief warned Monday.

26 July 2004

BERLIN - Bugging operations aimed at terrorist suspects across Germany are in danger of being closed down under a new court ruling, the country's police union chief warned Monday.

"Hurdles have been set so high that investigators could be forced to cancel operations," said Konrad Freiberg, the police union's national leader.

Freiberg told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that police feared a Baden-Wuerttemberg state court ruling would serve as a model for the entire country.

At present it is far easier for police to get approval to bug a telephone than to wire up an entire residence for eavesdropping. A total of 22,000 phone taps were approved in Germany in 2002, the police union said.

But the court ruling would require police offices be physically present not just for the bugging of homes or office premises but also for each phone tap, said Freiberg.

Bugging one phone 24-hours a day would require 16 officers to oversee the operation, he said, adding that with many suspects speaking foreign languages this would be an impossible task.

In addition, the ruling says officers should switch off bugs whenever suspects talk about issues not relevant to the police investigation.

Freiberg said this would make bugging impossible in Germany because officers would not know when they could turn back on their phone taps.

"This means we could listen in briefly every half hour to see if anything relevant was being said," he pointed out.

Freiberg termed the court ruling potentially "catastrophic" for the war on terrorism.

"All the instruments we had for fighting terrorists are being knocked out of our hands," he concluded.

About 30,000 Islamist extremists live in Germany out of a total Moslem population of about 3 million, according to the German government.

The hijackers who took part in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States had lived in Germany disguised as students before moving to America.

DPA

Subject: German news

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