Believe it or not, there may be one good thing to come out of the global surveillance scheme of the National Security Agency (NSA): It may slow down the rush to integrate the economies of the United States and the European Union.
Peer Steinbrück, leader of the German Social Democratic Party (SDP), is calling for an end to all U.S.-EU trade negotiations pending a further investigation into the NSA’s spying activities within Germany.
"I would interrupt the negotiations until the Americans say if German government offices and European institutions are bugged or wiretapped,” Steinbrück said during an appearance Sunday night on a German public television program.
Steinbrück is running against current Chancellor Angela Merkel in the federal elections to be held in September. Earlier in his career, he served in the Merkel administration as finance minister and he was the equivalent of governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.
“We don't know if the Americans may be sitting under our desks with some technical devices,” he added.
He’s probably right.
A story published in the German magazine Der Spiegel reported:
Internal NSA statistics indicate that the agency stores data from around half a billion communications connections in Germany each month. This data includes telephone calls, emails, mobile-phone text messages and chat transcripts. The metadata — or information about which call or data connections were made and when — is then stored at the NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, near Washington, DC.
The statistics, which SPIEGEL has also seen, show that data is collected from Germany on normal days for up to 20 million telephone calls and 10 million Internet data exchanges. Last Christmas Eve, it collected data on around 13 million phone calls and about half as many online exchanges. On the busiest days, such as January 7 of this year, the information gathered spiked to nearly 60 million communication connections under surveillance.
Taking a shot at his political boss-turned-rival, Steinbrück said, "Merkel is saying one thing about all this: Let's wait.” “I don't think a chancellor should wait when civil liberties are at stake.”
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Photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel: AP Images