[JURIST] Germany's lower house of parliament [official website] voted Wednesday to approve a new law [materials, in German] which would expand the power of Germany's federal police agency, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) [official website, in German], to undertake online and telephone surveillance. Under the proposed law, a judge would be required to order an online search before BKA agents would be permitted to engage in surveillance of a suspect's computer or telephone lines. Proponents argue the measure is necessary to foil international terrorism plots, while opponents say the new law would give the BKA expansive surveillance powers when they only have a vague suspicion of terrorist activity. The bill passed by a margin of 375-168, and it is expected to pass the upper house later this month. The law could take effect in late 2008. AP has more.
In February, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website] ruled that a 2006 North-Rhine Westphalia [state government website, in German] law authorizing intelligence agents to search personal computers, networks, and Internet communications was unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The court ruled [text, in German; press release, in German] that the law violated privacy rights, but said similar methods might be appropriate in limited, compelling circumstances, such as if a life was in danger or to prevent an immediate terrorist attack.