I just started to read this commentary from Jacob Augstein, son of the founder of German weekly magazine "Der Spiegel" and regular weekly columnist for the online edition of "Der Speigel" there.
The title of his column from today is:
"Obama's Soft Totalitarianism: Europe Must Protect Itself from America".
Yeah, riiight ...
That is all the more twisted considering that Berlin Wants to Spy Too.
Well, I can't even read the whole two articles right now myself. But to those of you, who have a considerable interest in the "Good Germans" angle of everything German, it looks like you might "enjoy" these two articles. (sigh)
... The truth is that the Germans would love to be able to engage in more online espionage. Until now, the only thing missing has been the means to do so. Consequently, an outraged reaction from Berlin would have seemed fairly hypocritical.....Yes, I don't like anything of all of it. It makes me sick. I am nervous and get jittery about what the future will hold. Call me a chicken, not a "Good German". I don't want to read the news anymore.
The importance of the NSA to the German government was exemplified not only by agency head Alexander's stopover at the Chancellery, but also by a longer visit by German Interior Minister Friedrich at NSA headquarters in early May.
Only One German Minister Criticizes Prism
"There are more questions than answers," says German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party. In a letter sent to European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding, she wrote that the alarming news had "sparked concern and indignation" in Germany. So far, though, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is the only member of the government to openly criticize the NSA practices. "President Obama has to provide a clarification," she says. "I am sure that Chancellor Merkel will ask some critical questions of Obama," she concludes.
Merkel could ask, for instance, why Europe's economic powerhouse is subjected to a similar degree of scrutiny as leading autocracies like China and Iran -- and what the legal basis for this is. She could also ask why the NSA monitors no other European country more intensively than its loyal ally Germany.
In any case, she will have to ask better questions than those posed by Cornelia Rogall-Grothe, a state secretary in the German Interior Ministry, who wrote last Tuesday on behalf of her ministry to the US Embassy in Berlin. Her queries read like an official declaration of helplessness -- or routine devotion to duty. "Are US agencies running a program or computer system with the name Prism?," the Interior Ministry official asked. She could have also asked if New York was located in the US. It sounded like a clueless request from the German government.
A Blind Eye
This attitude has a long tradition. When it comes to the thorny issue of American surveillance of German citizens, German politicians have never been courageous. Claus Arndt is a legal expert who served from 1968 to 1999 on the Bundestag's G-10 Commission, which decides on surveillance measures by intelligence agencies. He says that top politicians have never made an issue of surveillance by the Americans, and that they all "did their best to stick their heads in the sand." Perhaps it is this sense of fatalism that still influences certain government representatives today.
The special relationship between both countries dates back to the days of the Cold War. The Federal Republic of Germany had the Americans to thank for its security, if not for its very existence. In return, the authorities tended to turn a blind eye when American intelligence agencies operated on German soil. During this period, the allies secured wide-ranging surveillance rights in Germany, many of which are still valid today.
The Germans only objected when the Americans became far too brazen. Prior to the visit of US President Gerald Ford in Bonn in 1975, a team from the US intelligence agency insisted that it had to check that everything was in order at Palais Schaumburg, the former Chancellery, to ensure the president's safety. But then two men were caught fiddling with the phone lines. The head of the Chancellery threw the men out of the building.
But kicking someone out the door has become considerably more difficult in this age of online espionage. What's more, it requires wanting to eject someone in the first place.
REPORTED BY MELANIE AMANN, SVEN BECKER, MARKUS FELDENKIRCHEN, HUBERT GUDE, JÖRG SCHINDLER, HOLGER STARK AND KLAUS WIEGREFE
Translated from the German by Paul Cohen