Jul 4, 2018

German Police Raid Augsburg Fablab, Confiscate 3D Printed “Atom Bomb”

German Police have raided a Fablab in Augsburg, Germany, where they confiscated a 3-inch tall 3D printed "Atom Bomb". This explosive act comes with the accusation that the fablab owners were "setting off explosive materials". Clearly, something has gone horribly wrong. Here‘s the story behind a raid that shouldn’t have happened.

The evidence is wrapped in a plastic bag: A small 3D printed model of an atom bomb – the typical PLA printable you find on the desks of makers and gamers alike. In a YouTube video, you can see the object in question being pinged around a room. It’s a scene that has likely happened at fablabs around the word: Some guys joyfully playing around with their self-built toy, in this case, the “OpenLab Augsburg F-Bomb Launcher v3”.

However, this harmless little red doodad was apparently suspicious enough for the local German police force to take action. On June 20th, 2018, they raided the Augsburg hackerspace “Open Lab”. Also located in the office is the local branch of the Chaos Computer Club, the largest European hacker association.

Roughly translated from German, the reason for the confiscation (as detailed on the evidence bag sticker, top image) is “intent to set off an explosive device”. In addition the police also seized chemicals (used for the etching of circuit boards), USB stick, computers and notebooks. The founder of Open Lab, Andreas Bartels, and all people present at the time of the raid were also arrested. The police report (as reported in Der Spiegel) alleges a whiteboard a the makerspace to show chemical equations for such a bomb.

The allegations against Open Lab and its present users all turned out to be wrong, with the arrested later released. Materials siezes as part of the raid however, remain in the hands of the Bavarian police force.

The Real Story behind the Raid

The story behind the raid goes way deeper. The General Attorney of Munich is investigating the website of anonymous leftist activists called “Augsburg für Krawalltouristen”, which loosely translates as “Augsburg for riot tourist”. On this website, they call out for actions that could be interpreted as a call to violence. On the basis of this, the General Attorney is investigating the case with the aim to identify the persons responsible. So far, so good.

According to ZDnet, additional raids were carried out in other parts of Germany, with private individuals Moritz Bartl in Augsburg, Jens Kubieziel in Jena, and Juris Vetra in Berlin all raided in coordination with the Open Lab raid. All three are tied to the Tor privacy community “Zwiebelfreunde”. A fourth, unnamed individual with links to the Zwiebelfreunde and access to the group’s bank accounts was also raided.

The Police produced a warrant to seize communications from “Zwiebelfreunde” relating to the blog and the email address hosted by Riseup, a privacy-focused email service. All computers and smartphones were confiscated and haven’t been returned to their owners yet.

What makes the case so special is that people that were arrested have no connection with the Augsburg für Krawalltouristen activist group. Only their names appeared on the Riseup server, a service that is used by thousands of people searching for private and secure communication.

The raids are the latest in a series of intrusions by law enforcement into the Tor community. The Tor network allows for people to protect their privacy while surfing, a technology that has been subject of much controversy between Germans citizens and its authorities.

According to the police, Bartl is considered to be a witness, not a suspect.

“There’s a long history of police using that kind of data to investigate social structures; who’s working where, who’s involved in which projects, so we have to assume that they are looking into the social networks of people,” said Bartl to ZDnet.

Also, the Chaos Computer Club has condemned the raids as “incompetent and malicious.”

The state of Bavaria recently also passed a law called “Polizeiaufgabengesetz”. It gives the authorities the power to arrest and detain suspects indefinitely if there is “immediate danger”. Here’s hoping it’s not triggered by 3-inch a red PLA atomic bomb.

(Source: Der Spiegel, ZDnet)

License: The text of "German Police Raid Augsburg Fablab, Confiscate 3D Printed “Atom Bomb”" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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