---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 14:17:31 -0600 (CST) To: cypherpunksat_private Subject: Krauts Weaken Constitutional Privacy BONN, Germany (AP) -- Germany reduced constitutional guarantees of privacy Friday to fight organized crime, ceding historical concerns over past dictatorships to present-day realities. By a one-vote margin, parliament's upper house approved changes to the constitution necessary for eventual passage of a law allowing electronic surveillance in private households. Before approving the measure, however, the opposition Social Democrats won a promise that a parliamentary committee would re-examine the proposed law to include protection for some groups -- including journalists, doctors and some lawyers. The proposed law has raised warnings about reviving the police state tactics of the Nazi regime and former communist East Germany. Mostly, though, critics are worried about breaching confidentiality essential to some professions, such as doctors. Outside of government, journalists and doctors have been the most vocal critics of the draft law, which currently shields conversations between suspects and clergy, parliamentarians, and defense lawyers. Journalists view the proposed law as an attack on press freedom. ``It's not about privilege for journalists,'' the chairman of the German Journalist Association, Hermann Meyn, wrote in an open letter to parliament. ``It's about protection of news room secrets, essential press freedoms.'' The vote Friday weakened the constitutional guarantee of the sanctity of ones home by defining situations when police could bug homes: during investigation of serious crimes -- such as murder, kidnapping, extortion, arms and drug trafficking -- with the approval of three judges. The changes necessary for the law also would allow electronic eavesdropping on suspects after a crime has been committed -- not just to prevent crime -- and for the first time allows information from bugging devices to be entered as evidence. Organized crime has risen sharply in Europe since the collapse of communist regimes in Russia and Eastern Europe, which loosened previously closed borders. Drug trafficking, car theft and smuggling of cigarettes, illegal immigrants and even nuclear material has increased. The law must be passed by both houses of parliament.
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