In an angry conversation, recently reelected German Chancellor Angela Merkel (shown in photo) told President Obama that the surveillance tapping of her cellphone by the National Security Agency (NSA) was “like the Stasi,” the infamous East German secret police.
The exchange, as reported by the New York Times December 16, occurred after reports surfaced of the NSA’s nearly decade-long surveillance of Merkel’s cellphone.
Despite Merkel’s angry reaction (and similar recriminations around the globe from other monitored politicians), NSA leadership reportedly refuses to promise Merkel to exclude Germany from its surveillance scope. As explained by the New York Times:
American officials have refused to extend the “no spying” guarantee beyond Ms. Merkel, telling German officials in private sessions that if the White House agreed to forgo surveillance on German territory, other partners would insist on the same treatment.
“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.”
Nothing, not even the prospect of souring the relationship with a long-time ally, can dissuade the NSA from keeping the entire planet under its constant and technologically dazzling gaze.
There are those within the the president’s security inner circle who realize the ironic blowback that may result from the NSA’s rock-ribbed insistence on its right to continue listening to leaders around the globe when they think they are speaking in private. Again, from the Times article:
The director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, said in an interview after the monitoring of Chancellor Merkel was revealed that the United States may soon have to choose between spying on partners and making them full participants in combating digital threats.
Naturally, nearly every story on the subject published by the mainstream (read: state-run) media focuses on the potential threat to the “security of the homeland” should the NSA’s ability to monitor Internet and phone traffic be curtailed. There are very few of these articles taking up the legitimate question raised in Merkel’s outburst: Are NSA tactics similar to those of the Stasi?
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Photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel: AP Images