Germany’s Hipster NSA Snooping Solution—Typewriters, Classical Music, Walks in the Park

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 15 2014 8:12 PM

Germany’s NSA Snooping Solution Sounds an Awful Lot Like a Mindfulness Retreat

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Germany's hipster anti-spying solution.

Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

The Germans’ list of grievances with its old pal the U.S. over the NSA’s insatiable informational appetite has threatened to relegate the two countries’ relationship to frenemy status. With the awkwardness of American surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone perhaps just starting to subside, the U.S. got nabbed again after a German intelligence officer was caught funneling documents to the U.S.

While repairing the U.S.-German relationship may take some serious couple’s therapy, the more pressing question in Berlin is: How can it stop its kleptomanical ally? To solve that problem the Germans are considering some particularly old school remedies—starting with ditching email in favor of typewriters. Here’s more from the Guardian:

The head of the Bundestag's parliamentary inquiry into NSA activity in Germany said in an interview with the Morgenmagazin TV programme that he and his colleagues were seriously thinking of ditching email completely. Asked "Are you considering typewriters" by the interviewer on Monday night, the Christian Democrat politican Patrick Sensburg said: "As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either". "Really?" the surprised interviewer checked. "Yes, no joke," Sensburg responded.
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The Americans have apparently infiltrated electricity too. Another low-tech solution already employed by some German politicians, the Telegraph reports, is playing classical music during meetings.

MPs who sit on the spying committee had become so concerned that US agents might listen in to their discussions that they had ordered classical music to be played, to drown out the discussions. On arrival at the meeting, The Suddetusche Zeitung reported that for "security reasons" MPs had to put their mobile phones and computers into a large metal box to ensure that they were not subjected to outside surveillance. "Then the committee chairman, Patrick Sensburg switched the music on," a source told the paper. "Edvard Grieg's piano concert in A minor. Just for security."

Security measures with impeccable taste are hard to come by. The Germans are, of course, working on many more sophisticated ways to protect its communications from American eyes and ears. "[BUT] above all, people are trying to stay away from technology whenever they can," wrote the German newspaper Die Welt, according to a Guardian translation. "Those concerned talk less on the phone, prefer to meet in person. More coffees are being drunk and lunches eaten together. Even the walk in the park is increasingly enjoying a revival."

With classical music, ditching email, coffee dates to chat, and long walks in the park, throw in some yoga and meditation and German politicians soon may be at the forefront of the mindfulness craze.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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