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Security

Bundestag debates US and British surveillance programs

Members of Germany's Bundestag have called for clarity on foreign wiretapping and surveillance programs. Meanwhile, the EU's justice chief has demanded answers on the Britain's online eavesdropping.

The debate in Germany's lower house of parliament Wednesday focused on how citizens' privacy can be guaranteed under controversial surveillance programs from the US and Britain. Both government and opposition politicians said it was important to avoid intrusion into data privacy.

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had already written to her British counterpart on Monday after the Guardian newspaper revealed a large-scale data trawling program called "Tempora" set up by Britain's Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) that tapped international telephone and Internet traffic.

Germany debates surveillance concerns

"It is…quite understandable that this matter has caused a great deal of concern in Germany," she said. "Questions have been raised concerning the extent to which especially German citizens have been targeted."

The GCHQ revelations followed earlier concern over the US National Security Agency's Prism program, which collects large amounts of Internet data from companies like Google and Facebook.

Bundestag debate

Members of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), Greens and Left parties accused the government of failing to protect the rights of German citizens.

Thomas Oppermann, the SPD faction's parliamentary floor speaker, asked Germany to intervene to protect the rights of it citizens. The Greens' faction leader, Renate Künast, called for the German government to take action against the US and Britain and raise the issue during the EU summit later this week.

The Left's faction speaker Ulla Jelpke, meanwhile, accused the government of having prior knowledge of the spy programs.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the concern over the spying programs was understandable and that there remained unresolved "questions" about the activities of the British and American intelligence agencies.

"We always have to struggle for the balance between freedom and security," Friedrich said.

EU demands answers

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday she had written a letter to British Foreign Secretary William Hague asking for information on the range and limits of Tempora.

"I have asked for a very urgent reply by the end of the week," she told reporters in Brussels.

Reding had already done the same after Prism was revealed, but said she was still waiting on a clear answer.

The justice commissioner said she wanted to know whether the program went beyond national security and collected information in bulk. Furthermore, she asked in her letter whether the collected information traveled outside of Britain.

Both Tempora and Prism have raised concern in Europe that that users' iÍnternet data has been collected, which would violate EU data protection laws.

dr/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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