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Will using typewriters keep Germany safe from U.S. spying?

Will Using Typewriters Keep Germany Safe From U.S. Spying?

German officials are so worried about U.S. spying, they're apparently going back to typewriters.

Patrick Sensburg is Germany's head investigator on CIA and NSA spying. He told a German news program that his committee is moving away from electronic communications and using typewriters instead - and he was totally serious about it.

It's understandable his committee is trying to be extra cautious. It was at the heart of a double agent scandal earlier this month when a German official was arrested for passing information on the committee to the CIA.

They might be going a little overboard, though. A German newspaper, Die Welt, reported this week that the committee has started kicking off its meetings by having everyone put their phones in a metal box and cranking up classical music to mask the conversation from listening devices.

But they also aren't the first to see going old school as the best way to counter electronic spying.

A Russian paper, Izvestia, reported last year that the countries security service had ordered 20 mechanical typewriters in response to Edward Snowden's leaks on the NSA.

But will it work? Declassified NSA documents show that bugging typewriters was all the rage back in the Cold War, so we know spy agencies have plenty of practice at this sort of thing.

But unlike electronic data collection, bugging a typewriter requires someone to actually go and put the bug in, so at the very least it's a lot less convenient for the spies.

Still, with one double agent arrested and another under investigation in Germany, it's become pretty clear that technology isn't the country's weak point.

As a writer for The Telegraph puts it, "Rather than snooping on data, cracking safes or deciphering the sound of key strokes, it seems easiest for the NSA and CIA to simply pay German officials to hand the information over."

Still, it's nice to see a little James Bond-era cloak and dagger back in the spying game.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
olengrumpy July 16 2014 at 9:00 AM

just another hole in the sinking boat called America. The worst sitting government in the history of this country.

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7 replies
coopdabomb July 16 2014 at 6:20 AM

Another ally to the U.S. gone because of this solid piece of human waste and his administration. But thats ok bergdahl is free and lawyered up.

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7 replies
skerpie July 16 2014 at 10:01 AM

I have a desk model Olympia typewriter. It was made in Wilhelmshaven, BDR after the war. It is so over engineered. I think it weights 40#.
After reading this article, I looked at my leviathan of a machine and tried to price it out. How much would this cost to make now, and in Germany?
The lowest price I came up with was about $7,000.00. There are so many specialty parts needed. Very little of this machine comes out of a McMaster-Carr catalogue.
The good news is that Germany, unlike the USA, takes pride in educating young people to become skilled tradespeople. Instead of asking young people to participate in college produced debt schemes, and then fly a desk in a cube farm for 40 years, the Germans train their youth to participate in a craft union that supports their export economy and advances the region. They understand that not every one needs to sit behind a desk and make pestering phone calls about credit card offers.
Oh, BTW, my typewriter is not for sale.

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1 reply
luvprr skerpie July 16 2014 at 4:47 PM

Very good. I hope they will improve on the WWII Enigma Machine time around.

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katieryan5555 July 16 2014 at 3:14 AM

The germans learned the lessons of world war two. They are very careful about spying reporting people and other nefarious activities without huge sized cause.

Our federal data collections have not just been used illegally againist americans now they are making derterminations of guilt againist our friends both foreign and domestic.

In any other curcumstance the syptoms Uncle Sam has been displaying would have been diagnose as mentally ill. This has got to change for all of our sakes.

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1 reply
savannahswithgod katieryan5555 July 16 2014 at 8:42 AM

The lesson of WW2 was to control the air!

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stengernc July 16 2014 at 6:34 AM

How about every country that NSA spies on slaps the USA with a sanction in return....like close down their embassy and restrict American visas. The citizens need to respond to spying by NSA by not voting for the party in power then maybe something will be done....we are being abused by the paranoia of the super rich who buy control of our government thru their donations and graft. If you are sick of the 1% controlling 99% then vote this election and kick out those in power.

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3 replies
lightyrs1 July 16 2014 at 8:59 AM

By the time we get to 2016, we will have no allies left at all.

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2 replies
Leroy Gd lightyrs1 July 16 2014 at 1:02 PM

Well thanks to obama the brotherhood of terrorists are friends with the people living in the white house.

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mouse lightyrs1 July 16 2014 at 3:55 PM

We will be fubar because of Obama!

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ExAZtential July 16 2014 at 10:30 AM

Next big thing, taking a Selfie at your IBM Selectric typewriter, drinking a PBR, while listening to the phonograph.

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1 reply
suannesb ExAZtential July 16 2014 at 3:33 PM

Spies can glean info from IBM Selectrics. They're electronic.

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Christop July 16 2014 at 10:24 AM

Like the Germans dont spy.....

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1 reply
ajax Christop July 16 2014 at 12:15 PM

Apparently they are not stupid enough to get caught twice in a row.

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dwtomczyk July 16 2014 at 7:27 AM


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vcambri01 July 16 2014 at 8:48 AM

Angela Merkel is acting like a girlfriend in a bad breakup. Showing up at the worldcup with her new boyfriend Putin and acting all hyperbolic about this spying thing. She needs to get over it.

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