Law and Policy in Internet Surveillance Programs: United States, Great Britain and Germany


Many Europeans are outraged about US government surveillance programs that the leaked NSA documents have documented. German and European politicians and government officials have strongly criticized the US government for disrespecting the privacy of European citizens’ personal data and communications. The concerns about Internet surveillance by the NSA and other intelligence agencies are certainly warranted. And criticisms by close partners and allies will be important to push the US government to reevaluate the scope and scale of these programs and to consider meaningful reforms to improve oversight and accountability. In order to be credible spokesmen for reform, Europeans will have to follow at least the same standards that they would like to see other governments adopt. And they will have to be transparent about what these standards are and how they will be applied in practice. Germans have been among the most outspoken critics of the US government. These critics implicitly make the assumption that Germany has higher standards than the US in regard to limiting and controlling its intelligence agencies. In this paper, we test this assumption by comparing the underlying law governing signals intelligence programs aimed at non-citizen communications in the US, the UK and Germany. 

A joint publication of program "European Digital Agenda" of stiftung neue verantwortung and Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation

September 30, 2013

Stefan Heumann, Ben Scott