Some in Germany See Return to Typewriters and Coffee Meet-ups as Way to Avoid U.S. High-Tech Spying

Thursday, July 17, 2014
(AP photo)

American spying overseas has proven so worrisome that one U.S. ally is seriously considering ditching email and using typewriters to communicate classified information that can’t be intercepted electronically.


Germany, whose government officials and citizens were angered last year upon learning the National Security Agency had spied on them, is thinking seriously about embracing pre-computer technology to better protect government information.


The country’s news media has reported that one elected official, lawmaker Patrick Sensburg of the Christian Democratic Party, said in an interview that some in the German parliament might use manual typewriters to record and transmit important memos. Some politicians strongly object to the idea, saying it represents an overreaction to NSA surveillance.


“This call for mechanical typewriters is making our work sound ridiculous,” Representative Christian Flisek of the Social Democratic Party told Spiegel Online. “We live in the 21st century, where many people communicate predominantly by digital means. Effective counter-espionage works digitally too. The idea that we can protect people from surveillance by dragging them back to the typewriter is absurd.”


Another German publication, Die Welt, reported that some people are so concerned about the Americans eavesdropping on conversations that they avoid technology wherever possible and meet in person over coffee and in other ways to keep conversations private.


Germany wouldn’t be the first country to resort to typewriters in the wake of the NSA spying revelations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Russia, which granted asylum to Snowden, reportedly started using special typewriters for communications produced by the government’s top leaders.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Germany ‘May Revert to Typewriters’ to Counter Hi-Tech Espionage (by Phillip Oltermann, The Guardian)

NSA-Gremium Erwägt Geheimwaffe Schreibmaschine (by Von Manuel Bewarder, Die Welt)

Russian Guard Service Reverts to Typewriters after NSA Leaks (by Miriam Elder, The Guardian)

Germany Embraces Creation of European Data Networks as Shield from NSA (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

German Chancellor Confronts Obama over Alleged NSA Monitoring of Her Cell Phone (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


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