German Committee May Use Typewriters to Combat American Espionage


As the U.S.-German spy scandal continues to unfold, the German committee that was allegedly being spied on is actively seeking ways to keep its work hidden from American informants. One option they're looking at is good, old-fashioned typewriters.

The Guardian reports:

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. …

"Unlike other inquiry committees, we are investigating an ongoing situation. Intelligence activities are still going on, they are happening," said Sensburg. …

According to German media, revelations about digital surveillance have triggered a fundamental rethink about how the government conducts its communications. "Above all, people are trying to stay away from technology whenever they can", wrote Die Welt.

The spied-on committee was, interestingly enough, a task force for investigating National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance on the German public.

Of course, Germany cannot rely exclusively on typewriters to keep its secrets safe. From Ars Technica:

In addition to the typewriting initiative, [Sensburg] announced publicly that he was going to have a security audit performed on his smartphone. "I'm going to ask the other chairmen and committee members to have their phones checked at once," Sensburg said.

That declaration came just one day after German media reported (Google Translate) that two members of the German parliament—including a former member of the intelligence committee—had their phones compromised.

"We have to try to keep our internal communication sure to send encrypted e-mails, use crypto phones and other things, and other things that I won't mention, of course," Sensburg noted.

H is for Home

The alleged spy who has provoked this, identified only as Markus R., apparently worked for Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, and sold 218 documents to the CIA for a modest $34,000

This isn't the first time a country has turned to typewriters in light of NSA snooping. Just about a year ago, following the Edward Snowden deluge, Reason noted that one Russian federal agency bought 20 typewriters for spy-proof internal communication.