"The New York Times has a front-page article today about how the fear of terrorism in Germany is leading to a slow but inexorable erosion of civil liberties," writes David Vickrey in Dialog International. David also translates an editorial in Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which accuses Germany's Interior Minister Schaeuble of hysteria and of talking "as if it were vital to prepare the way for the Guantanamisation of Germany's judicial system." Personal sarcastic comment: Great that the Sueddeutsche Zeitung is not hysterical... Besides, I agree to some extent with the professor of law quoted in the NYT: "If something happened, the same people who are criticizing him [Schaeuble] for going too far would criticize him for not going far enough." A serious debate about the usefulness of certain counter-terrorism measures and their impact on civil liberties is good.
Koehler urged Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to show restraint in presenting ideas which he said could unnecessary unsettle the population. It was the duty of the minister 'to wrack his brains' over the best way to protect citizens, the president said in an interview on Germany's second television channel ZDF. But the staccato 'manner in which the suggestions came about' was not ideal. Schaeuble called for legal powers to intern terrorist 'combatants' before they struck and said that Germany might have to introduce a US-style criminal offence of conspiracy to commit a crime. The minister, who outlined his thoughts in the news magazine Der Spiegel last week, also proposed a ban on the use of the internet and mobile phones by people the state deemed to be dangerous. Schaeuble also called for clarification under what conditions the constitution permits the state to target and kill terrorists. President Koehler said he had his doubts whether 'the killing of a suspected terrorist without a court ruling could be treated so lightly.' The minister's remarks, particularly those about targetted assassinations, provoked outrage in Germany, with opposition Greens party leader Claudia Roth calling on him to resign.
U.S. and German officials fear terrorists are in the advanced planning stages of an attack on U.S. military personnel or tourists in Germany. "The information behind the threat is very real," a senior U.S. official told ABC News. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble told reporters, "The danger level is high. We are part of the global threat by Islamist terrorism." Of particular concern, according to U.S. and German law enforcement officials, is Patch Barracks, the headquarters for U.S. European Command, near Stuttgart.
A threat warning issued by United States in Germany last month could involve attack plans by an al Qaeda-affiliated group of Kurdish extremists, officials said on Friday. U.S. and German authorities said, however, that there was no new threat in Germany beyond the official April 20 State Department warning. They were responding to a report by ABC News on its Web site on Friday that officials believed terrorists were in the advanced planning stages for an attack on U.S. military personnel or tourists in Germany. In the April 20 warning, the U.S. embassy in Germany encouraged Americans in the country to increase their vigilance and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.
Hundreds of German police combed offices and flats associated with leftwing activists across six northern cities yesterday, saying they had evidence that a terrorist organisation was planning to disrupt next month's G8 summit.
Writing for German Joys, Ed Philp looks at initiatives against "small freedoms" in Germany, i.e. against the relatively liberal attitudes towards smoking, maximum speed limits on the autobahn, the age of legal beer and wine consumption, and the sale of violent video games. Ed wonders "how is Germany ever going to convince North American exchange students to spend a year over here without dangling the lure of legal access to liquor in front of them?" Ed appreciates that he can still drink a beer in public and that he could watch some second-rate prime-time nudity on TV, if he wanted to: "Even if these particular aspects don’t interest me, that level of liberalism toward social freedoms does." According to Ed, "Germany’s small freedoms seem to counterbalance limitations to ‘big’ freedoms, in contrast to the United States, which takes the opposite approach." Unfortunately, he does not elaborate, but in the comments section of German Joys he mentions home schooling as an example of "big freedom." Dialog International writes that "US Evangelicals Demand German Home Schooling." And even the State Department's report on "Human Rights Practices in Germany" points out:
The legal obligation that children attend a school, confirmed by the Constitutional Court in May and the European Court of Justice in October, and the related bar on home schooling, was a problem for some groups. Generally, state authorities have permitted such groups to establish charter‑type schools.
Two interesting comments at Dialog International: Potsdam Amerikanerin links to a study in International Review of Education, which points out that "Home education is permitted in some form or other in all the European countries studied except Germany." And Little Andy (blog) wonders if the home schooling supporters would continue to criticize Germany, if Muslim fundamentalist parents would make use of a legalization of home schooling.
Two agents of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service contradicted Foreign Minister Steinmeier and told a closed session of a parliamentary inquiry that the Pentagon officially backed the offer to free Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz in November 2002, writes United Press International. Another surprising twist, reported in a different UPI article:
Germany's former Interior Minister Otto Schily, who was part of the top-level group that decided to forbid Kurnaz's return to Germany, said the man was considered a security risk. "A man who shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, buys a camouflage suit, binoculars and laced boots, and leaves for Pakistan without saying goodbye to his family in Bremen -- I don't think such a man wants to look for Allah with his binoculars," Schily told the German weekly Die Zeit.
Endnote: The case of the Canadian citizen Maher Arar is different, but it is interesting to note that the Canadian government issued a formal apology and paid $10.5-million compensation for Maher Arar, because an inquiry recently concluded that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police "passed misleading, inaccurate and unfair information to U.S. authorities that very likely led to Arar's arrest and deportation to face torture in Syria." I wonder what the Kurnaz inquiry will conclude.
Today is a national holiday in the United States to mark the birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to "celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America," wrote Mrs. Coretta Scott King. The musical "Martin Luther King - The King of Love" by and with Ron Williams premieres in Berlin on February 2, 2007, writes Die Welt (in German). Ron Williams is a German-American entertainer, who came to Germany as a GI in the 60s. His homepage.
YouTube has a 17 minutes video of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, which is still very powerful and moving on the European side of the Atlantic as well. Transcript. Let freedom ring... Crooks and Liars has another video: "The evolution (devolution?) of rhetoric: Bill O'Reilly vs. Martin Luther King, Jr." which includes some of the reverend's quotes on Vietnam and dissent vs disloyalty.
UPDATE: Martin Luther King used his American Express Card to enter East Berlin: See Freitag (in German) or English summary in this comment.
On Tuesday, President Bush signed into law a bill that critics consider "one of the most un-American in the nation's long history," writes Dan Froomkin for the Washington Post:
The new law vaguely bans torture -- but makes the administration the arbiter of what is torture and what isn't. It allows the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant. It suspends the Great Writ of habeas corpus for detainees. It allows coerced testimony at trial. It immunizes retroactively interrogators who may have engaged in torture. Here's what Bush had to say at his signing ceremony in the East Room: "The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom." But that may not be the "clear message" the new law sends most people. Here's the clear message the law sends to the world: America makes its own rules.
And the LA Times points out that "the Justice Department moved immediately to request the dismissal of dozens of lawsuits filed by detainees challenging their incarceration."
Secret detention and "disappearances" of dissidents and political opponents are something that only happen in evil, undemocratic countries in South-or central America, right? Wrong. It happens on behalf of the United States all over the world, including Europe, says amnesty international USA. In a report dated April 5, 2006, the US is accused of "rendition" and "disappearance". Rendition, as defined by the human rights organization, is "the transfer of individuals from one country to another, by means that bypass all judicial and administrative due process." The number of cases appear to be in the hundreds, and "every one of the victims of rendition interviewed by Amnesty International has described incidents of torture and other ill-treatment." In addition, the USA has acknowledged the capture of about 30 "high value" detainees whose whereabouts remain unknown. While before September 11, 2001, the rendition program was mainly intended to render terrorist suspects to the United States for trial, since the "War on Terror" it seems to be aiming more and more to deny detainees access to American courts. New Directives implemented under the Bush administration remain classified, but are said to give the CIA and the other 15 members of the American "intelligence community" the power to capture and hold terrorist suspects.
Secret detention is the corollary of a secret rendition programme. (…) Rendition provides the means to transport them to the CIA-run system of covert prisons that has reportedly operated at various times in at least eight countries.
Amnesty describes some cases of rendition, secret detention and "disappearance" in detail, including German national Muhammad Zammar's, about which Amnesty says:
The secret arrest and subsequent "disappearance" of Muhammad Zammar has all the hallmarks of a case in which an individual has been rendered for the purposes of interrogation under torture. Zammar's family in Germany has received one letter from him dated 8 June 2005. His current whereabouts are unknown. According to the Amnesty-report, intelligence information supplied by Germany is thought to have been instrumental in his arrest in Morocco and rendition to Syria.
Deutsche Welle opines that the CIA controversy is becoming a sharper thorn in transatlantic relations:
European leaders were initially slow to react to allegations of secret flights carrying suspected terrorists landing on their soil after reports of them first leaked in November. Experts say that is because European governments were more informed than they wanted to admit. But since EU Commission officials first downplayed the issue late last year, the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, has continued to investigate. At the same time, countries such as Germany and Italy are probing the issue -- the Bundestag will hold more hearings this week to find out what German officials knew. Most officials say it is unlikely that European governments were kept in the dark. Meanwhile, an EU parliamentary committee issued a report last month saying that the CIA carried out as many as 1,000 secret flights in the past five years, transporting suspected terrorists to third countries.
Human rights groups plan to sue the government. Al Gore sees the constitutional design of checks and balances in grave danger. And the European Parliament adopted resolution concerning Echelon eavesdropping in 2001.
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