Man Suggests Nature Walk To Observe NSA Spies Threatened Habitat; Has Law Enforcement Visit His Habitat (Techdirt)
Thursday July 18th, 2013
Facebook continues to be an intelligence operative's best friend. Many of its users subvert any sort of expectation of privacy simply by leaving their accounts on the default settings. (This also works out well for Mark Zuckerberg.) Anything set to the public default can and, apparently, will be seen.
If you want to make a joke about the NSA, feel free. Just don't be surprised if it gets a response.
Normally, Daniel Bangert's Facebook posts tend to be of the serious variety. The 28-year-old includes news items and other bits of interest he encounters throughout the day. "I rarely post funny pictures," he says. Few of Bangert's friends took him up on his offer. However, he did receive some queries from some other interested parties. Four days after his post, he received a phone call from the local police who wished to discuss the post. Unfortunately for Bangert, this phone call was interrupted.
Recently, though, he decided to liven up his page with something a bit more amusing -- and decided to focus on the scandal surrounding the vast Internet surveillance perpetrated by the US intelligence service NSA. He invited his friends on an excursion to the top secret US facility known as the Dagger Complex in Griesheim, where Bangert is from.
He described the outing as though it were a nature walk. He wrote on Facebook that its purpose was to undertake "joint research into the threatened habitat of NSA spies." He added: "If we are really lucky, we might actually see a real NSA spy with our own eyes." He suggested that those interested in coming should bring along their cameras and "flowers of all kinds to improve the appearance of the NSA spies' habitat."
Bangert's doorbell rang at almost the exact same time. The police on the telephone told him to talk with the officers outside of his door. Bangert quickly put on a T-shirt -- which had a picture of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on it along with the words "Team Edward" -- and answered the door. So, how did the local police hear of Bangert's "event?" According to the spokesperson, US military police had come across the post first and passed the info along. Apparently, this information wasn't done traveling, resulting in Bangert receiving yet another phone call.
Bangert says he answered all of the questions truthfully, saying that, yes, his intention was that of heading out to watch the spies. "The officers did smirk a bit," he notes.
Not long later, Bangert got another call asking him to report to Central Commissariat 10 of the German federal police. They too then sent an officer to his home. "The wanted to know if I had connections with (anarchist groups) or other violent people," Bangert says. He told the officers that he didn't, repeating over and over that he "just wanted to go for a walk." The federal police were less amused by Bangert's post (he was called *gasp* a "smart aleck"), but unable to find anything damning, they resorted to more bureaucratic forms of dissuasion -- suggesting Bangert secure a permit for his "demonstration." They also told him not to post anything on the web about their visit. Bangert met them halfway.
Bangert took their first piece of advice, registering his "demonstration" even though, as he says, "it wasn't supposed to be one." But he ignored the police's second suggestion and reported on their visit on his Facebook page. "How much more proof do you need," he wrote. "Everyone says that they aren't affected. But then I invite people for a walk and write obvious nonsense in the invitation and suddenly the federal police show up at my home." Bangert's story spread to the local media, resulting in his "nature walk" being joined by another 70 people who wished to view spies in their natural habitat. It also attracted a police "escort" comprised of squad cars bookending Bangert's group. Although attempts were made to coax the spies out of their offices for closer observation, the walk ended without any actual spy sightings.
Bangert wisely neither confirms nor denies reports there will be more "nature walks" in the future.
So is he planning a repeat? "I didn't say that and I didn't write it anywhere," Bangert replies. This particular incident ended amicably, without arrests or conjecture about terrorist activities. But it only takes one overreaction for things to go horribly worse, and the more reponding entities there are, the higher the chance is that this might offcur. It also clearly indicates that American operatives are exercising active surveillance on German citizens' online activities, something German citizens aren't exactly thrilled about, especially when the local US military base has the power to send officials after anyone who offends the "sensibilities" of their permanent visitors.