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Der Spiegel online recently published - on July 4th, ironically - an interview it conducted with Edward Snowden's lawyer and human rights activist Jesselyn Radack who frequently posts at Daily Kos (here) and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake while they were in Berlin to testify before a committee of the German Parliament investigating NSA spying in the country:

NSA Experts: 'National Security Has Become a State Religion'

I know that Ms. Radack posts here, but I missed that she is Edward Snowden's lawyer, though other DK readers who follow her writing more closely probably knew that already. Thomas Drake, the former NSA employee who is well-known here by name, at least, is also her client, and they give some very eye-opening insights into the extent of the NSA spying on and in Germany, which is also a microcosm of the immense scope the NSA's actual data-gathering capability has. The NSA invasiveness has become quite a serious issue, and threatens US-German diplomatic relations, which have become quite contentious since Edward Snowden's revelations began emerging last year. Things took a turn for the worse with the recent discovery of the latest spying incident involving a German BND (German Federal Intelligence Service) suspected double agent allegedly caught passing information about Germany's NSA investigations to the NSA. This has been written up by Hound Dog here and here.

Follow me below the fold for a couple of excerpts from the interview to whet your appetite.

SPIEGEL: Germany's federal prosecutor has opened a formal inquiry into the surveillance of Angela Merkel's mobile phone, but he did not open an investigation into the mass surveillance of German citizens, saying that there was no evidence to do so. Mr. Drake, as a former NSA employee, what's your take on this?
Drake: It stretches the bounds of incredulity. Germany has become, after 9/11, the most important surveillance platform for the NSA abroad. The only German citizen granted protection by a statement by Barack Obama is Angela Merkel. All other Germans are obviously treated as suspects by the NSA.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Radack, do you have an explanation for the German federal prosecutor's position?

Radack: Of course. They don't want to find out the truth. Either they're complicit to some extent or they don't really care to investigate.

I'm no legal expert, but in the paragraph following the one above, which I didn't post, Ms. Radack seems to assume that the laws and legal system are the same in Germany as they are in the US - no, they aren't. I don't think the answer is that simple. She is judging the situation from a purely American point of view and not considering cultural, social or political differences or differences in the two legal systems. There are also a lot of politics and diplomacy involved that we may not be privy to, and Germany has to tread a careful line between being outraged (justifiably) and being offensive to the US for political as well as economic reasons. There certainly are vital points of intelligence collaboration that are necessary, particularly in regard to possible terrorist activity in Germany, which is an ongoing threat. As a long-time expat living in Germany, I quite like the idea of potential innocent victims being protected from murderous violence here or anywhere else in the world. Thus there are various, perhaps less obvious aspects, that have to be taken into account that might not have to be in other countries.

That said, I admire her integrity and courage, and think she's spot on about many other things, so my mild disagreement on this one point is in no way intended to denigrate or dismiss her efforts in fighting the system on behalf of her clients.

The interview goes on to detail the reasons for the intense NSA focus on Germany and discusses the close working relationship between the NSA and the BND, among other things:

SPIEGEL: On the other hand, Snowden's documents show that Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, cooperates closely with the NSA. Why does it do that if it harms Germany?

Drake: It's a sort of paradox in that relationship. The cooperation between the two services goes back to the Cold War. There was a deep intelligence sharing going on. The NSA has always been the master in that relationship, and most of the sharing is in one direction. It has never been equal. Then 9/11 happened.

The interview is very interesting and well worth reading. I think it makes pretty obvious that whatever Germany's role, if any, in the international "I Spy" game may be, it is dwarfed  by the arrogance, power and all-pervasiveness of the NSA by many orders of magnitude.

For more information on NSA spying and Germany from a more European perspective, there is an extensive list in the left column of the interview page (linked above) containing Spiegel articles related to the NSA scandal in English.

10:00 PM PT: Apparently this post hit the Rec List while I slept! Thank you for making this story more visible.

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