Luxembourgers were in uproar this week as revelations of a vast government surveillance programme were made public by an ex-secret service consultant who had taken temporary refuge in the Embassy of the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra.
The revelations were published by national paper, Le Jeudi, in a special Wednesday edition that sold 1.2 million copies in 48 hours, equivalent to 2.2 copies per citizen and a 184,000% increase in ordinary weekly circulation for the publication.
Initial indications from leaked government documents indicate that the Luxembourg Secret Listening Service (LSLS) took advantage of its central geographic location to tap into fibre optic cables carrying vast amounts of internet and telephone traffic. This, in conjunction with additional bilateral agreements with banking and political partners allowed the small nation to channel a significant percentage of worldwide data communications through a datacentre housed in the largest building in the capital.
Kyle, a data processing expert from Norway, confirmed that, “given recent advances in miniaturisation of media storage and processing power, it is possible that they could fit all this data and the ability to filter and interpret it into one, or perhaps two of their largest buildings, provided they had a way to both power the complex and evacuate the heat generated by the datacentre.”
The whistle-blower has, according to the Andorran representatives available for comment, already departed the embassy and left the country, initially travelling on foot. Presumably under pressure from their Luxembourg allies, the French authorities made a mockery of international law and the Geneva Convention, and pulled over the Andorran diplomatic car as it made its way home across the French territory, forcing the ambassador to stand on the hard shoulder for two and a half hours as the secret service searched the seat cushions in the reconfigured Seat Toledo for the fugitive, known so far only as Brian.
The initial outrage was quickly tempered through carefully-worded revelations by the authorities that while the government did indeed vaccum up “huge great wads” of data, and that all employees of the secret services and their external contractors “have blanket access” to the data, “they only ever use it to spy on people who don’t live here. Honest.” Since this declaration, a large proportion of those initially critical of the programme have argued that other people’s privacy is a necessary sacrifice in the interests of continued domestic security, provided the privacy of the population of Luxembourg is protected.
The Luxembourg Alliance for the Defence of Privacy and the Ownership of Personally-Identifying Electronic Data (LADPOPIED) issued a statement declaring that, while it was greatly relieved to learn that the government was only spying on allies, one document in the leaked stash seemed to indicate that over five thousand Luxembourgers had had their data queried “by accident”, and that this number, while nominally small, represents almost one per cent of the population. The Alliance suggested that this should have been made public and a system of checks and oversight put in place.
In a rare moment of clarity, a government spokesman responded that the country couldn’t very well spy on foreigners while announcing that they were doing so as this was not considered polite in political circles and tended to reduce the leverage such information provided. Nevertheless, oversight has existed for years, as each individual in the secret service has always had the ability to declare any perceived wrongdoing or abuse through the use of a special suggestion box situated in-between the targets at the far end of the shooting range in the second subbasement. Furthermore, any accidental querying of domestic data was corrected through a process known as “minimisation”, whereby it was stored separately and only read twice.
The spokesman went on to say that he hoped that Andorra would reconsider its decision to protect the fugitive Brian, and suggested that perhaps it was no surprise that Brian had chosen a country known for secretive banking practices as his place of refuge, although the spokesman sought to retract that statement during follow-up questions by the press.
A conspiracy theorist blogging from an unknown location has drawn a significant audience following his allegations that the United States of America is most likely behind the scandal, and is letting its Luxembourg partner take the fall under threat of having CIA-supported heads of state use another country for their checking accounts.
The United States of America rapidly denounced this theory as ridiculous, and impossible under the current laws in place, specifically referring to a secret interpretation of a 2002 law issued by a secret court that apparently deliberated for seven minutes after hearing “at least one side of the argument”. Asked to provide more detail regarding this courts’ interpretation, a fully redacted document three pages long was provided to the press.
Nevertheless, the President announced an official review of the situation by a panel of wholly independent experts who are uniquely suited to the task of investigating such matters thanks to their deep knowledge of secret government projects and their many combined years of experience in the CIA, FBI and NSA.
Meanwhile, Brian remains in Andorra, his last public comment indicating that he hadn’t realised the country was land-locked, and didn’t really want to be here in the first place, but the Principality was the only place that – after he had barged into the kitchen of the Ambassador’s Residence while masquerading as a sous-chef – been too proud to be seen to bend the knee to Luxembourg and respond to their demands for his return, regardless of the Grand Duchy’s assurances of a properly staged show trial.
Travellers are advised not to exit Luxembourg with a copy of the "Jeudi’s" Wednesday edition as neighbouring countries are systematically detaining individuals for nine hours and confiscating the newspaper and all writing implements and paper materials in the possession of such individuals, who are to be reclassified as data mules under forthcoming European legislation.