Tell us what you really think. According to a report from the New York Times, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Obama that the actions of the NSA reminded her of those done by the notorious East German spy agency, the Stasi. The Stasi were the secret police unit of the East German Communist Party and gained notoriety for their all invasive surveillance tactics, among other things. Merkel grew up in communist-controlled East Germany.
In an angry conversation with Mr. Obama in October after the phone monitoring was revealed, Ms. Merkel said that the N.S.A.’s activities reminded her of growing up as the daughter of a Protestant minister in East Germany. “She told him, ‘This is like the Stasi,’ ” said one person who had discussed the conversation with the chancellor.
Another person familiar with the conversation said Ms. Merkel had told Mr. Obama that she was particularly angry that, based on the disclosures, “the N.S.A. clearly couldn’t be trusted with private information, because they let Snowden clean them out.”
Merkel highlights something important here, not only are the NSA vacuuming up everything but their internal security is rather weak making access to all that information apparently easy to obtain. Another reason not to allow the collection of it in the first place.
As the Snowden critics love to point out he was not the most qualified applicant for an NSA position yet he did gain one and in so doing was able to “clean them out.” There hasn’t been any serious changes in NSA leadership raising the question over whether or not internal security has improved much. The reliance on politically connected contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton and others to do so much of agency’s work still seems to be NSA practice.
Meanwhile the high level of trust in the German-American relationship remains in jeopardy from revelations of US spying.
The distaste within the German political establishment for the United States’ approach extends beyond former citizens of East Germany, like Ms. Merkel. Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the Social Democratic Party and deputy chancellor in Ms. Merkel’s new government, took time in a speech last month to emphasize Germany’s dismay that the United States could engage in the kind of surveillance Mr. Snowden has disclosed.
“The United States, the country we Germans have so much to thank for,” Mr. Gabriel said at a party congress in Leipzig, “is at the moment endangering the most important foundation of our trans-Atlantic partnership.”
Hard to sustain a relationship without trust.
Perhaps it is time to have a global as well as national conversation about how surveillance technology should and should not be used. Information technology has changed the game and an open and frank conversation between citizens and between countries would be a good start to getting a handle on the situation.
Otherwise relationships will break down as secrecy, paranoia, and distrust envelope the entirety of foreign and domestic politics.