Germans mull whether to continue intel partnership with US over NSA revelations

posted at 8:46 am on December 17, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

One key indicator of the health of an international relationship might be how often one gets compared to a brutal Big Brother apparatus. If so, then Barack Obama discovered that the US-German relationship needs a little medicine ASAP.  According to the New York Times, the relationship has hit the rocks thanks to the revelations in the NSA scandal — and Angela Merkel bluntly told off Obama in an October phone call by using a comparison that hardly compliments the US:

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.”

Over the next several weeks, the situation hasn’t improved much.  In part, that’s because the US refuses to give any guarantees that it will stop listening to German officials, only committing to leaving Merkel’s communications alone.  Merkel wants the NSA to stop snooping in Germany altogether, but the US worries that setting that kind of precedent would force the NSA out of other countries as well:

“Susan Rice has been very clear to us,” one senior German official said, referring to Mr. Obama’s national security adviser. “The U.S. is not going to set a precedent.”

Frankly, I’d guess that Merkel is a lot more worried about NSA security than its actual activities, although the insult of being personally spied upon certainly can’t have helped her disposition. No one seriously expects the US to ignore communications in Germany, especially given the activity in Hamburg prior to the 9/11 attacks.  What Merkel wants is for it to remain secret, and almost certainly to be better targeted to actual security threats, so that her government isn’t embarrassed again by revelations of indiscriminate communication collection in the US.  The outrage over espionage is just a little hypocritical coming from other nations that conduct intelligence operations for their own purposes, and coordinate with the US for common security against terrorist threats.

The same is true for those who aren’t front-line partners with the US.  Edward Snowden appealed publicly to one of those countries, Brazil, asking them to help settle his status so that he could travel to nations looking to protect themselves from Uncle Sam’s snooping:

In a letter obtained and published early Tuesday by the respected Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Snowden said he’s been impressed by the Brazilian government’s strong criticism of the massive NSA spy program targeting Internet and telecommunications around the globe, including monitoring the mobile phone of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Brazilian senators have asked for Snowden’s help during hearings about the NSA program’s aggressive targeting of Brazil, an important transit hub for trans-Atlantic fiber optic cables that are hacked.

“I’ve expressed my willingness to assist where it’s appropriate and legal, but, unfortunately, the U.S. government has been working hard to limit my ability to do so,” said the letter, translated into Portuguese by the newspaper. It didn’t make the English original available online.

“Until a country grants me permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak out,” the letter added.

News agencies assume that Snowden appealed specifically for Brazilian asylum, but the letter doesn’t explicitly request it.  Nonetheless, Snowden would probably accept it if offered at this point.  Brazil has its own track record of domestic and diplomatic espionage that extends the hypocrisy past the US circle of allies, but it still would be a friendlier place than most for Snowden specifically now.

It would be friendlier than the US, certainly:

That’s not like the Stasi, by the way.


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Nonetheless, Snowden would probably accept it if offered at this point. Brazil has its own track record of domestic and diplomatic espionage that extends the hypocrisy past the US circle of allies, but it still would be a friendlier place than most for Snowden specifically now.

Also a place much easier than Russia for a special operation. Just sayin’

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 8:50 AM

This is like the Stasi,’

Yep.

Welcome to America. Circa 2008.

Gatsu on December 17, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Merkel must have felt some solace in the District Court ruling against the NSA .

No?

Meh.

socalcon on December 17, 2013 at 8:59 AM

Merkel had enough Stasi growing up in the DDR ya think?

kcewa on December 17, 2013 at 9:06 AM

“Susan Rice has been very clear to us,” one senior German official said, referring to Mr. Obama’s national security adviser.

Why is this woman allowed to talk to anyone?

kcewa on December 17, 2013 at 9:09 AM

This is that Smart Power I’ve heard so much about, our allies thinking it might not be such a good idea to ally with us.

Bishop on December 17, 2013 at 9:22 AM

and Angela Merkel bluntly told off Obama in an October phone call by using a comparison that hardly compliments the US: “She told him, ‘This is like the Stasi,’”

And the phone call wasn’t even to Obama.

forest on December 17, 2013 at 9:23 AM

This is like the Stasi,’

It’s best to just think of the NSA as the government’s “secret police.” They operate above and beyond the law (regardless of what any individual judge says, you cannot convince me that mass data collection on Americans’ private activities is legal or constitutional). What Snowden did was expose them as “secret police” which is the real reason they want his head.

Doomberg on December 17, 2013 at 9:24 AM

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,’ ”

I’m willing to bet that the Stasi reference was wasted on Obama. He’s such a stupid incurious bastard, he’s clueless on history beyond the stuff he claims is “unprecedented” just because it is done by a mixed race marxist instead of a real American.

The left constantly tells us just how intelligent Obama is. He is playing 3D chess while we are playing checkers. Well, the reality it that he’s playing 52 Card pickup and thinks it is a funny gag.

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 9:29 AM

This is like the Stasi,’

Yep.

Welcome to America. Circa 2008.

Gatsu on December 17, 2013 at 8:55 AM

No it’s not. The Stasi is theirs. We’re not the Stasi. Nothing worse than a reformed anything, a reformed Nazi or Commie in this case. If they still feel guilty or over-sensitive to their past, so they have to make over the top comparisons, that’s their problem. Every country gathers the foreign intelligence they can. If there’s info bouncing around in the radio waves, and the other side picks it up, and you don’t, then you’re derelict. We’re the free world. We don’t need the Commies or the Islamists to know stuff we don’t know, if we can help it.

Paul-Cincy on December 17, 2013 at 9:30 AM

It’s best to just think of the NSA as the government’s “secret police.” They operate above and beyond the law (regardless of what any individual judge says, you cannot convince me that mass data collection on Americans’ private activities is legal or constitutional).

Doomberg on December 17, 2013 at 9:24 AM

In a bit of good news, it would appear the judiciary agrees:
http://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/national-security-agency-phones-judge-101203.html

And the phone call wasn’t even to Obama.

forest on December 17, 2013 at 9:23 AM

Heh. Nice one.

Inkblots on December 17, 2013 at 9:32 AM

It’s best to just think of the NSA as the government’s “secret police.” They operate above and beyond the law

Doomberg on December 17, 2013 at 9:24 AM

The NSA thinks of themselves as the good guys. They are truly shocked that anybody would question what they are doing. Even as the NSA leadership has demonstrably lied to Americans and under oath in Congressional hearings. They expect us to trust them despite their despicable acts.

That being said, Snowden is no hero or patriot. Had he gone forward with just the proof of metadata collection against Americans it would be one thing. But at least one journalist along with China and Russia were treated with something like 1.2M documents that Snowden stole from the NSA.

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Allies:

Poland, Germany Russia
Israel, Iran
Japan???

kcewa on December 17, 2013 at 9:33 AM

No man (or woman – for what that’s worth) would ever get into bed with Obama over anything.

/Cept for Reggie Love. He special.

Key West Reader on December 17, 2013 at 9:36 AM

It’s not like we need to have good relations with Germany. /
President showing once again how inexperienced and arrogant he is when it comes to foreign relations.

scalleywag on December 17, 2013 at 9:37 AM

We’re the free world. We don’t need the Commies or the Islamists to know stuff we don’t know, if we can help it.

Paul-Cincy on December 17, 2013 at 9:30 AM

They are spying on Americans.

That’s a big effin’ deal

Key West Reader on December 17, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Every country gathers the foreign intelligence they can. If there’s info bouncing around in the radio waves, and the other side picks it up, and you don’t, then you’re derelict. We’re the free world. We don’t need the Commies or the Islamists to know stuff we don’t know, if we can help it.

Paul-Cincy on December 17, 2013 at 9:30 AM

These countries aren’t complaining because of the surveillance. They’ve been betrayed by Obama’s foreign policy and this is a way of saying “we don’t trust the US anymore”.

And they’re right – they shouldn’t.

kcewa on December 17, 2013 at 9:38 AM

1) It’s so naïvely sweet that Snowden thinks the FSB and SVR will just let him out of Russia.

2) Can someone ask Angela Merkel who the German SIGINT satellites are intended to spy on…especially since they were orbited by Russian rockets?

allanbourdius on December 17, 2013 at 9:40 AM

We’re the free world. We don’t need the Commies Capitalists or the Islamists to know stuff we don’t know, if we can help it.

Paul-Cincy on December 17, 2013 at 9:30 AM

Wow, I only needed to change one word to make an argument in support of the Stasi. Good job, and enjoy your secret police protection. Just remember: they’re working to keep “you” safe! :)

Inkblots on December 17, 2013 at 9:41 AM

2) Can someone ask Angela Merkel who the German SIGINT satellites are intended to spy on…especially since they were orbited by Russian rockets?

allanbourdius on December 17, 2013 at 9:40 AM

I bet they know what kind of toilet paper Obama uses. I bet it isn’t EPA approved toilet paper. That would be…

Scandalous!

Key West Reader on December 17, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Exit question, thanks to King Barack the Magnificent, do we really have any “allies” left?

GarandFan on December 17, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Can someone ask Angela Merkel who the German SIGINT satellites are intended to spy on…especially since they were orbited by Russian rockets?

allanbourdius on December 17, 2013 at 9:40 AM

Yeah but the first rule of spy club is that you don’t talk about spy club. The Snowden data dump is more awkward than it is a shock to anybody.

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Do hope Merkel pulls the plug…if not, the USA will know every detail about the private lives of every German citizen.

albill on December 17, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Exit question, thanks to King Barack the Magnificent, do we really have any “allies” left?

GarandFan on December 17, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Iran and North Korea. Syria potentially if the right band of Islamic radicals win.

Hurrah or something.

Happy Nomad on December 17, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Sigh. You know it’s pretty bad when a country that used to be run by Nazi’s is comparing the U.S. government to communists.

It’s even worse when you realize that they are correct.

Sterling Holobyte on December 17, 2013 at 10:00 AM

According to the source, Snowden didn’t dupe coworkers into handing over their passwords, as one report has claimed. Nor did Snowden fabricate SSH keys to gain unauthorized access, he or she says.

Instead, there’s little mystery as to how Snowden gained his access: It was given to him.

J_Crater on December 17, 2013 at 10:07 AM

It’s the massive spying on innocent German private citizens, stupid.

Christien on December 17, 2013 at 12:18 PM

If Ronald Reagan were President now, he would be absolutely delighted to have a conservative Chancellor of Germany who had grown up under the Stasi and knew of its evils first-hand, and would be working with her to contain the spread of the enemies of America and Western Europe.

Instead we have a sorry excuse for a president who managed to p!$$ off such a vital ally.

Steve Z on December 17, 2013 at 12:41 PM

We have become East Germany.

And the citizens demand for more free stuff.

And demand death to the Bourgeoisie.

And government is intent on doing exactly that.

My adult life and career. For what?

To end tyranny abroad only to have tyranny embraced at home?

coldwarrior on December 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM

When the Field Station in Bad Aibling is shut down…then our “alliance” with Germany will be over. Done. Kaput.

coldwarrior on December 17, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Darn, the Greman IQ must be slipping.

Which part of “You Can’t” did you not perceive out of the revelations.

WryTrvllr on December 17, 2013 at 2:00 PM

German, hey mine too.

WryTrvllr on December 17, 2013 at 2:46 PM