Crypto Anarchists Flock to Berlin to Escape the NSA

Journalist:
November 10, 2014
During the GDR era, this room was used for interrogation by the Stasi (East German Secret Police).

With its strict privacy laws, Germany is the refuge of choice for those hounded by the security services, The Guardian reports.

Laura Poitras, the director of Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour, just released in cinemas, moved to Berlin to escape the attentions of the US security services. She chose Germany because of its privacy laws, and Berlin because of all the groups doing anti-surveillance work there. She says:

“There is just a very real historical awareness of how information can be used against people in really dangerous ways here. There is a sensitivity to it which just doesn’t exist elsewhere. And not just because of the Stasi, the former East German secret police, but also the Nazi era.”

Jacob Appelbaum, an American who helped develop the anonymous Tor network, and went on to work with WikiLeaks is also in Berlin with growing community of surveillance refuseniks. They moved to Germany to escape harassment by their national surveillance authorities. Poitras says:

“It got to the point where my plane would land and they would do what’s called a hard stand, where they dispatch agents to the plane and make everyone show their passport and then I would be escorted to a room where they would question me and oftentimes take all my electronics, my notes, my credit cards, my computer, my camera, all that stuff.”

The Fracture Point Between two Opposing World Orders

It’s becoming evident that the central conflict of our time is between libertarianism and violent authoritarianism above the law. A likely explanation for the crypto-anarchy renaissance in Berlin is that its inhabitants have seen, twice in the 20th century, that widespread surveillance leads to very dark places that they don’t want to go back to. Appelbaum says:

“I can’t help thinking that Berlin, the city that found itself at the frontline of so much of the 20th century’s history, has found itself, once again, on the fracture point between two opposing world orders. And I wonder if the people I meet are the start of the internet fightback; if Berlin really is becoming a hub for a global digital resistance movement.”

It is important to bear in mind that both Poitras and Appelbaum are peaceful, law abiding citizens. Isn’t it sad that peaceful, law abiding citizens are forced to leave their home?

What do you think of the growing surveillance against peaceful, law abiding citizens? Do you wish to move to Berlin? Comment below!

Images from andersphoto and Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco @giulioprisco

Science writer, software developer, Bitcoin/crypto enthusiast.