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The Sex Lives of Others: Germany and US to Share Intimate Data on Terror Suspects

The US and Germany recently signed a deal that would allow them to share data on suspected terrorists. Now it turns out that the new agreement allows for the countries to swap data on suspects' ethnic origin, religious beliefs and union membership -- and even sex lives.

Guantanamo Bay detention camp: The US and Germany plan to swap intimate data about terror suspects.
AP

Guantanamo Bay detention camp: The US and Germany plan to swap intimate data about terror suspects.

When Germany and the US recently signed a bilateral agreement allowing them to swap data on terror suspects, civil rights activists accused the deal of violating German privacy laws. Now union leaders and opposition politicians are up in arms after it has been revealed that the agreement clears the way for sharing very personal information -- including data on a suspect's sex life.

SPIEGEL has learned that the agreement contains a passage that foresees the exchange of data about a suspect's "racial or ethnic origin, political views, religious and other beliefs or membership of a union," should they be relevant in the fight against criminality or terrorism. Data relating to the "health and sex life" of a suspect can also be shared.

The passage in question has elicited a strong reaction from union representatives. The head of Germany's Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), Michael Sommer, said he considers it "the height of impertinence that the government can pass on information about the union membership of German citizens to the US."

Gisela Piltz, spokesperson on domestic politics for the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, also condemned the agreement, saying that she could not understand what sexual orientation could have to do with acts of terrorism.

The German Interior Ministry, which is currently preparing a draft law that would implement the agreement, confirmed that it could not be ruled out that "ethnic origin, political views or religious beliefs" might be contained in the data that was shared between the countries. However "special safeguards" would be implemented for "this kind of especially sensitive data," the ministry said.

Under the agreement, which was signed on March 11, Germany and the US will share personal data, fingerprints and DNA samples of people suspected of terrorism or other serious criminal activity. The new deal means that each country can query the other about whether they have information on a particular terrorist suspect.

"We are fighting a networked international enemy and therefore we have to respond with a global network of our own," said US Secretary for Homeland Security Michael Chertoff at the time. Chertoff said the data-sharing plan between the US and Germany was part of a larger project to set up international "tripwires that allow the vast majority of people to pass unimpeded" but catch terrorists as they cross international borders.

The German president, Horst Köhler, still has to approve the agreement before it can be enacted into law, which will require the approval of both houses of the German parliament.

dgs/spiegel

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