Today I learned from Format magazine and on Peter Pilz’s Facebook page where the NSA’s listening post in Vienna is supposed to be, so I decided to go and have a look at that building.
Shortly after I took that picture, a policeman came to me from his post.
Policeman: You can take a picture here, but I have to ask you for a passport and take down your data.
I: That can’t be right. As long as I don’t break any law, I don’t have to prove my identity.
P: Do you really believe that?
I: Yes, that’s the law.
P: Are you sure about that?
I: You should know that actually.
The policeman turns away from me and calls the Group4 security employee of the facility.
P: He won’t give me any data. He has to give me his data. Please call a police car. My cell phone is empty and the radio discharged two minutes ago.
I say goodbye and take a seat on my bicycle. The policeman holds my handlebar and says:
P: You do not leave. Have I made myself clear? I need an identity card.
I: Am I under arrest?
The policeman still holds my handlebar and says:
P: No, you are not arrested.
I: So can I go now please.
P: No, you certainly cannot leave.
I: So I am under arrest.
P: No, you are not arrested.
I: If you won’t let me go, I am under arrest.
P: Do you want to take your chances?
P: No, because you don’t give me an identity card. That’s why.
I: Well, but I don’t have to give you an identity card, if you can’t tell me why. Because I took a picture, I now have to show my identity card?
P: This is an U.S. building.
I: Where does it say that? Do you know that it is prohibited to protect a foreign intelligence agency?
P: Who says so?
I: § 319 criminal code
P: So it is forbidden to protect the U.S. embassy as well?
I: No, it is not forbidden to protect the U.S. embassy.
P: Who says that this is an intelligence agency?
I: Today’s newspapers say so.
P: Only you believe, that this is prohibited. If our government agency tasks us to stand here and protect them, then I think …
I: … then the agency is already breaking the law.
P: I am not interested in that. It is my duty to protect that. Ok?
I: But you still have to obey the law, no?
P: I follow my orders.
I: You have to follow the law, no matter what orders you get.
P: I can’t believe my ears. What?! Protecting a foreign intelligence agency is prohibited, in your opinion?
I: Yes, § 319 criminal code.
P: Well, then we’ve acted illegally for 30 years now.
I: Yes, probably.
Because I don’t believe that the policeman would let me go without identity verification, I finally gave him my driving license. While he slowly writes down my personal data, he adds:
P: We will ask the police car whether a foreign intelligence agency has to be protected. Because if that were prohibited, I’m okay with that, to be honest. I wouldn’t oppose that.
He still hasn’t told me his badge number, and now really takes his time in order for his backup (the police car) to arrive before the identity verification is finished.
P: Since you are so smart and believe, that this is forbidden, why haven’t you already talked to various media channels? That’s what I don’t understand.
I: Why should I talk to the media? If that is prohibited, shouldn’t I rather go to court and file a lawsuit?
P: You could do that.
I: For sure. You want to sue me as well.
P: I will not sue you. Why should I indict you? You haven’t done anything wrong.
I: So why do you write down my name?
P: Because I have to write down everybody who takes pictures here.
He still slowly copies every letter from my driving license. Later he asks once more.
P: I don’t understand, what would be illegal here, in your opinion. I stand here illegally for my agency? And the agency is the interior ministry.
I: Yes. That’s interesting, but this is the case.
P: That can’t be right. Do you really believe that?
I: It’s written law.
After he asked for my profession, he finally agrees to give me his badge number.
I: May I go now?
P: No, I haven’t finished writing. Don’t you see that?
Now he starts talking about the Puls4 TV-team, whose data he certainly wrote down as well. When finished, he still waits for the police car and doesn’t want to return my identity card back to me.
I: May I have my card back, or am I under arrest?
P: You have to wait until I am done writing down all your data. I still don’t know, where you live.
I: You don’t have to find that out either.
The policeman once again shouts in his apparently not totally empty walkie-talkie: “I need a police car please, urgently!” – “To object U.S.”
I: Look, if you want to sue me, you can do that. Why do I have to wait for the police car?
P: I cannot sue you, because you committed no offense. You only took pictures, and I have an order to write down the names of everybody, who records a video or takes a picture here. I haven’t made those orders. I just carry out my duty.
I: Yes, you are very dutiful.
P: And if that is prohibited, I am all right with that.
I: We will see whether you’re all right with that.
P: Would you tell me your address please?
I: No, I won’t tell you. I am not bound to do that. Besides, you can look it up in the central resident registration. May I have back my driver’s license?
Reluctantly he finally returned my identity card.
I: Thank you. Good bye!
On my way down, I can see the police car driving uphill with their emergency lights turned on.