BERLIN (AFP) — Left-wing members of the ruling coalition have objected strongly to plans by the German interior ministry to enlist "Trojans", malicious programmes sent in electronic mail, to spy on terror suspects.
According to a proposed plank of new anti-terror legislation, which was confirmed by a ministry spokesman, special software would smuggle itself into a suspect's computer disguised as a harmless e-mail.
It would then feed information back to police servers whenever the computer was connected to the Internet.
The plans, which have circulated online and in the press in recent days, have met with sharp criticism both from the GdP police union and from Social Democrats (SPD), who are partners in the left-right ruling coalition.
Opponents argue that the plans would violate Germany's Basic Law and its privacy protections, particularly if the Trojan software was hidden in an official e-mail.
"The SPD will never lend a hand to changing the constitution simply to allow online searches," said Ralf Stegner, the interior minister of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.
The opposition Left Party said that such measures would destroy Germans' faith in the state.
"No one will trust e-mails from the authorities because they could be snoop attacks," said deputy Jan Korte, a member of the interior affairs committee in the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
GdP president Konrad Freiberg suggested passing the broader anti-terror legislation at least initially without the online search programme.
He did not want to hold up key crime-fighting measures because of the controversy over Trojan programmes.
Joerg Ziercke, director of the Federal Crime Office, defended the idea of Trojans in an interview with Stern magazine to be published Thursday.
He argued that so-called Remote Forensic Software could not be broadly used anyway because it would have to be tailored each time to the computer that had been targetted.
The anti-terror draft law also includes new powers for the federal police to involve itself in cases that poses a national threat even without a specific request from state police.
It would also allow them to launch probes based on suspect profiling if there was a specific threat of attacks and wiretap suspects' phones.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party and one of the most experienced members of her cabinet, raised hackles in July when he proposed more draconian measures.
In an interview with the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, he suggested the indefinite detention and "targeted killing" of terror suspects and a ban on the use of the Internet and mobile phones by suspect foreigners living in Germany.
Germany has strict checks on its security forces in part due to the flagrant abuses committed during the Nazi era, and under the communists in what was East Germany.
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