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Germany

Top German Prosecutor Backs Online Terror Surveillance

The Internet has become the main mode of communication for international terrorists, according to Germany's top prosecutor. That's why the country needs to consider highly controversial surveillance methods, she said.

A computer with a picture of a veiled terrorists with a machine gun

German law enforcements needs to be able to observe terrorists online, Harms said

Surveillance of Islamists on the Internet has become vital in the battle against terrorism, Germany's top anti-subversion official, Federal Prosecutor General Monika Harms, said Friday, Dec. 14.

"The Internet has developed into the decisive means of communication within international Islamist terrorism," she said during a press conference in Karlsruhe to review the year.

Harms said a Berlin-based team, the Joint Internet Center (GIZ), consisting of about 30 German police and intelligence officers, had been working full time since January, monitoring Islamist activity on the Internet and analyzing Islamist Web sites.

DIY bombs

Monika Harms

Monika Harms has been in office since June 2006

The federal prosecutors added that the Internet was being used to give orders to conduct attacks or to publish blueprints for bombs.

"It provides a technical platform for new forms of telephony and written communication, where effective encryption is able de facto to prevent interception by third parties," she said.

Expanding surveillance

"It is indispensable for investigative authorities to have access to the communications of suspects," she added, referring to a debate in Germany about whether police should use software viruses to quietly read files on the computers' of people suspected of serious crimes.

"There are established instruments, such as telephone tapping, or the use of technology to establish the location of mobile phones," she said. "But technical change forces one to constantly review the technical arsenal."

Vigilance was vital to detect attack plans before they happened, said Harms, who directs prosecutors and police fighting crimes against the state.

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