We need more government surveillance: Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel backed Thursday more data surveillance by all European Union nations to fight terrorism, saying she would urge Brussels to draft new rules forcing telecom providers to log who accesses what websites.

She spoke during a Berlin parliamentary session that began with legislators standing for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

“We will not let them divide us,” Merkel said in a speech outlining the measures that Germany and Europe are taking to guard against the threat posed by terrorism and radical forms of Islam.

The chancellor called for the reintroduction of data-retention rules for telecommunications providers which a court declared void in 2010.

Most German companies only keep logs of web access for as little as seven days, mainly to catch illegal file sharers. Police want the logs kept for up to two years so they can trace terrorist conversations online, but critics contend this violates privacy rights.

A 2006 EU directive required all EU nations to pass laws so that logs of who phoned whom and who e-mailed whom, but not the contents, be kept for six to 24 months, along with the web addresses that users visited.

Germany’s top court voided the German law five years ago. In April 2014, the European Court of Justice quashed the directive because it breached fundamental rights. Brussels is drafting a follow-up that meets the judges’ standards.

“Given the cross-party conviction among all interior ministers, both state-level and federal, that we need such minimum retention periods, we should insist that the revision of the directive promised by the EU Commission is quickly completed and then implemented into German law,” Merkel told lawmakers.

Re-introducing retention, which is a cornerstone of US efforts to trace terrorism online, would cause huge controversy in Germany. Even Merkel’s justice minister, Heiko Maas, is an opponent.

Last week’s attacks began January 7 with the killing of 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. A policewoman and four hostages at a kosher supermarket were gunned down in the two following days.

An historic march on Sunday through Paris was attended by nearly 50 heads of states, including Merkel. She also attended a rally hosted Tuesday in Berlin by Muslim groups in support of religious tolerance.

In her speech Thursday, Merkel repeated her stance of earlier this week that Islam belongs in Germany.

Quoting a comment by a former German president, Christian Wulff, that angered more nationalist-minded Germans in 2010, Merkel said Christianity, Judaism and Islam all now belonged in Germany, while adding, “Some people have asked me which Islam I mean.”

“Any ostracism of Muslims in Germany – any casting of collective suspicion – must be precluded,” she said in defence of the country’s 4 million people of Muslim origin. Most Muslims were “law-abiding citizens.”

But it was “important” and “urgent” for Islamic clergy to examine how murderers could have claimed that Islam justified such attacks.

In remarks addressed to Paris, she said there could be no security in Germany without France being secure.

“Germany and France are standing four-square with one another in these painful days,” she said.

Referring to Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, the chancellor called freedom of the press “one of the great treasures of our society,” saying, “To be a citizen rather than a subject is only possible where a free press exists.”

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We need more government surveillance: Merkel