‘Total Surveillance’ Officially Brushed Off In Germany

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition are likely to emerge victoriously from the elections on September 22 – unless a major debacle blows up the equation. So all debacles have been deferred until after the election. The Eurozone debt crisis, Greece or Cyprus, collapsing banks and bailouts, whatever might happen in Italy or Spain, ECB shenanigans – no debacle is allowed to occur until after the election. But just then, over the weekend, a major debacle did happen.

The Spiegel, the largest magazine in Germany, had been able to “see and analyze” some of the documents Edward Snowden had purloined from the NSA. And now the whole world knows that the US intelligence community treated Germany, along with the European Union, France, and other countries, like Cold-War opponents.

Even French President François Hollande tried to slam his fist on the table when he said too softly into the uproar ensuing to his right and left, “we demand that this stop immediately.”

Not Merkel. She’s working furiously on deferring this debacle until after the election. When President Obama was in Berlin, she echoed his words that the then revealed portions of the spy programs had prevented a classified number of terrorist attacks in undisclosed locations on German soil. These programs were necessary to defend Americans as well as Germans against terrorism. Alas, the new revelations show that terrorism is only part of it – that in fact, the NSA has targeted everyone and everything, including companies, bureaucrats, diplomats, and elected politicians.

The NSA collected data on about 500 million phone calls, emails, and text messages per month in Germany alone, the Spiegel reported (article behind paywall) – by far the most of any country on the continent. In France, it was a measly 60 million communications per month.

It confirmed what has long been suspected in Berlin: with White House approval, US intelligence agencies assiduously spy on Germans, German companies, and the German federal government all the way to the top. What’s new is the extent of it – and the possibility, as the Spiegel calls it, of “total surveillance.”

Most intelligence agencies in Western countries are not allowed to spy on their own citizens in their own countries without judicial procedures. That includes the NSA in the US, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) in Germany, and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the UK. But the BND and the GCHQ can spy on US citizens, just like the NSA can spy on German and UK citizens. The logical next step?

The documents show that the agencies work together, that the BND and the GCHQ “assist” the NSA in the surveillance of the internet and telecommunications and that they share data – that is, the BND and the GCHQ might share data on US citizens with the NSA, and the NSA might share data with the BND and the GCHQ on citizens of their countries. Thus, the agencies can get around the limitations on spying on their own citizens. In this manner, all citizens anywhere could be under surveillance by any government, including their own, beyond any kind of effective control and oversight. Hence total surveillance.

While the Spiegel decided not to publish details of operations that could threaten the lives of NSA employees, it wasn’t shy about disclosing how the system worked. Turns out the NSA has bugged the offices of the EU diplomatic representation on K Street in Washington DC and infiltrated its internal computer network, according to a 2010 document. This gave the NSA access to emails, discussions, and internal documents. Total infiltration!

The EU Mission to the United Nations in New York was infiltrated in a similar manner. Documents also showed that the NSA had attacked the telephone system of a building in Brussels that housed the Council of Ministers and the European Council. Those attacks originated from the NSA’s section of the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Another document explained that the NSA has formed alliances with 80 global companies that support the two missions – defending US networks and spying on other networks. They included telecommunication companies, manufactures of networking equipment, software companies, and security firms, all of them identified only by codename. Which could get a bit tricky for these companies. They assured their clients that their data was secure while simultaneously handing it over to the NSA. 

Europeans were outraged. Particularly Germans. They didn’t like being called “targets,” as one of the documents had done, remembering all too well Obama’s and Merkel’s protestations in Berlin that the targets of all this spying were terrorists.

“Reminiscent of methods used by enemies during the Cold War,” is what Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, member of Merkel’s junior coalition partner FDP, called it. She has been jumping up and down about the spying scandals ever since the Prism program was revealed. 

“The spying has reached dimensions that I didn’t think were possible for a democratic country,” said Elmar Brok, member of Merkel’s CDU and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament. The US, once the land of the free, was “suffering from a security syndrome,” he said. “George Orwell is nothing by comparison.”

“A democratic state that uses Stasi methods sacrifices all its credibility as a moral authority,” Markus Ferber, member of Merkel’s CDU and member of the European Parliament told the Welt.

German and European officials far and wide called the media to get their sound bites in. But Merkel, who started her political career in East Germany under these “Stasi methods” and who is phenomenally popular, remained silent. The consummate political animal has no time for outrage. She’s trying to figure out how to defer that entire debacle until after the election.

But the opposition is trying to drag it by its hair into the election campaign. Peer Steinbrück, the SPD’s chancellor candidate and Merkel’s main challenger, demanded that she start an investigation. SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel raised the suspicion that Merkel had known about it all along and had tolerated it – and demanded that she explain herself. Merkel brushed them off with silence.

Meanwhile, a mad scramble has erupted in EU offices around the world to scour buildings for bugs and networks for infestations. The German Foreign Service wants to bring its communication technologies up to date. The Interior Ministry is checking its internal networks. And Merkel’s spokesman had the harshest official words so far: “Monitoring of friends is unacceptable,” he said. “We are no longer in the Cold War.”

That was it, as far as Merkel was concerned. She’d sail right through it, unscathed. And in the German media, the debacle is already moving on to Russia, where Snowden has apparently asked for asylum.

Surveillance goes beyond the internet and communications. A technology that surreptitiously captures data of people out on the street, combines it with other data, and mines it ad infinitum? In the US, local and federal government agencies love it. It’s increasingly sophisticated and cheap. It’s spreading. And it led a professor at the US Military Academy at West Point to warn: “We don’t have a police state in this country, but we have the technology.” Read…. Perfecting The Surveillance Society: If You Drive, You Get Tracked.

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SAT 800's picture

Merkel's popularity seems miraculous to me. What exactly is she credited with doing for Germany? She's certainly an apologist and co-conspirator in the Euro Debacle; which public opinion surveys in Germany consistently show as being dis-liked by a majority of the people. I don't get it.

rwe2late's picture

 I'm guessing it is the standard "no real choice" electoral ploy, like used with Obama.

She/he is publicized as the least worst of the horrid alternatives offered by the other (major) establishment political parties.

Also worked for Hollande.

Mentioning France, there is also the traditional modus operandi,

an explanation of which as attributed to Napoleon, "Promise them everything, give them nothing."

Lebensphilosoph's picture

Why? Because Germans are, at heart, so self-loathing bleeding-heart guilt-ridden,a nd arrogant about it, that they are absolutely terrified of a great German statesman. That would be EVIL. They WANT mediocrity.

davhay's picture

 CONGRESS I should say.

davhay's picture

All this corporate spying and congrees exempted themselves from the insider trading laws! Imagine that!

q99x2's picture

Good reporting.

plaspotje's picture

When my brother in holland and I in the usa got a tax audit in 2002 in the same month I knew enough , but more over government is not the smart one on the block either, and easy to out play.

Today anything you write or post , could have been done by the government, let them prove otherwise, they have total access and are the only ones that have total access, with help from. Apple google yahoo microshit , all media and every corporation in the usa and greater world that wants acess to business.

More over , most governments and now large company,s have no credibility, but the average person will some how live with that and while in some nation people fight back , most western people still'have it to good to reset the system, but one day the right moment will occur, and ................

Manthong's picture

Hey, at least we have a Nobel Peace Prize working for us.

Isn’t that something like “total consciousness”?

Joe A's picture

The French are upset that they are not as vigurously bugged as zee Germans.

SAT 800's picture

French 'Industry" consists of the butter, cheese, and wine crop. Who cares?

Trampy's picture

France cranks out more high-level mathematicians than any other EU country.

And guess who (collectively) employs the best and brightest of these?

It's the spy agencies and all their friends who spy on all the stupid proles who can't be othered with using free strong encryption that would guarantee their privacy in electronic communications.

"Terrorists" are only now starting to use encryption, because of the Snowden "limited hangout" of info widely known for TEN YEARS?  Gimme break.


PGP should be used routinely by anyone who values their privacy.  It's lame scare-mongering in service of the Fourth Reich to suggest that using encryption would be detrimental to your freedom.  That suggestion is ass-backwards.

See these two sites for new versions of PGP freeware:



For those who don't want to install any software, or first want to get an introduction to the concepts, you can try out PGP encryption using the web-based front-end at an on-line gold-exchange that's going out of business because they say BTC is better than micro-payments at their "gold exchange club." egolder built an HTML front-end for PGP for private communication with them about their gold account. igolder also gives instructions on how to configure SSL-protected access between your e-mail client and your e-mail server, because otherwise the e-mail header (to, from, subject) is transmitted in clear-text even if the message body is PGP-encrypted.  It's not a weakness of PGP, but users need to be aware and avoid putting confidential info on the subject line.


Contrary to what you might see, PGP 7.x and 8.x still work, if you know what you're doing.  The security holes in those versions are relatively minor unless you are exchanging PGP messages with a skilled attacker who can insert a DLL into their public key and you then insert that DLL into PGP itself somehow ... so it's not a good idea to use 7.x if you use PGP to communicate with everyone, which is impossible because hardly anyone uses PGP these days.

For one-click installation with hand-holding and tech support, new versions of PGP are sold as commercial off-the-shelf software here:


There is a large set of freeware versions for numerous OSs distributed by the GNU Privacy Guard project, which is sometimes called GPG:


Last but not least ... less than a month ago was released a brand-spanking new easy-install version of GnuPG targeting new Windows machines, including 64-bit. This was named Gpg4win; its development was supported by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) :


If everyone used encryption, the world would be a safer place!

Big Mahalo to Phil Zimmerman (who wrote it in the first place), and Bruce Schneier (who reviewed the software line-by-line).


andrewp111's picture

France has a huge Nuclear industry. It is the only Eurozone State with a nuclear arsenal.

tony bonn's picture

"... portions of the spy programs had prevented a classified number of terrorist attacks in undisclosed locations on German soil..."

is anyone really so fucking stupid as to believe that bullshit????????

oh, i have a number of acres of land to sell you - bridge included - but i can't reveal the exact total or the price until you pay for it....oh and i guess we will have to pass the legislation to see what's in it.....americans are stupid cunts.

SAT 800's picture

No; they don't believe it. It's obviously pathetic spin. They're not stupid people; and they're really pretty upset about this spying crap, too.

Colonel Klink's picture

Uh please don't paint me with that wide brush, many of them are but the really stupid cunts are the ones no longer upholding their oath to the Constitution and are taking graft in whatever form.  Those are the ones which belong behind bars.

Problem is with a corrupt and coopted attorney general, there's no one to uphold the law.  Which is when the social contract is broken.  That is when a nations people need to slip the chains of bondage from its existing government.

IMACOINNUT's picture

couple months ago i picked up a cheap radio/clock for my bedroom, and soon after i kept gettin static every few hours when the radio was off.  i thought it was afu but then i left my phone downstairs one night and never heard the static. well, now i believe it is the nsa pinging me to keep track of my location, maybe im a zh felon? so now i pull out the battery every night and say well they wont ping me tonight. am i hullcinating?

Winston of Oceania's picture

In all honesty I have a television in the bedroom that on occasion flashes white while off. I no longer have my tv's connected to skynet and ditched my smart phone for a flip top knucle dragger. Fuck them and all the companies that are complicit with them. No FB account and i am installing TOR for email, yer gonna have to work for it pig...

thepixelpusher's picture

That popping and buzzing you hear on that old radio is just your phone checking a conection to the nearest cell tower like all cell phones do, it's NOT the NSA. Some phones like the iPhone even do this when it supposedly seems to be off, because it really isn't off. This is done by your phone because it wants to have a solid connection for you all the time in case you want to make a call. Older radios don't have the shielding to prevent that noisy buzzing/popping. The new radios all have it because they know they'd never sell another radio if people hear that noise generated from the smartphones, so instead of telling people to keep their phones away from the radio they just shielded the radio speakers.


So sleep well, they aren't listening to you...yet.

LostAtSea's picture

True, cellphones do check the connection.  But I dont' think you can say without a doubt NSA also isn't monitoring him.  One doesn't disprove the other.

otto skorzeny's picture

just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.

IMACOINNUT's picture

if the germans could get their hands on some good french wine we would probably hear a little more on merkel/obama bs and get it going -- wow this cali wine is sure giving me a buzz


oh yea and get their gold back now

andrewp111's picture

I prefer German wine to French anyday.

Winston of Oceania's picture

You can also enjoy a Spaten lifestyle... Prost!

otto skorzeny's picture

should we be listening to the holier-than-thou "freedoms" bullshit from a country that by merely uttering a Holocaust denial gets you a minimum of 2 years in jail? give me a fucking break. The Germans have become pussified and subservient to money- they had a long history of kicking ass if somebody gave them so much as a cross-eyed look.

Umh's picture

Or may be Germans are pussified and subservient to authority which has made them the ideal tools of the centralized state for centuries.

Argos's picture

The Germans should DEMAND their gold back from the Fed. NOW.  That will hurt more than anything else they could do.


Racer's picture

And they know that if they did that, they would get an uhm, errr, sorry we can't give it to your right now, we need 50 years to get some, so here's an I.O.U., in the meantime

SAT 800's picture

Maybe they will. they're becoming more dis-affected as time goes on. As the article notes; "they don't love Obama any more"; and they're really pretty tired of the Bully on the Block posture of the US. I hope they do. I hate to see anyone trust the Americans with their Gold; that's just asking for it.

Lore's picture

Have the Germans thought this through? In this environment, what makes them so trusting? Do they really believe they'll get all their stuff back? Do they really think they'll get it within the quoted time-frame? Lots of things can change in 7 years. Lots can happen in 7 WEEKS. Furthermore, we don't know who specifically did the negotiating. What is their interest in the matter?  What spurred the negotiation and made it a priority? Speculation aside, what is the negotiator's reason for accepting a 7 year delay? Doesn't that strike you as peculiar?  

williambanzai7's picture


Must read. 

Germans loved Obama, now we don't trust him:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/opinion/sunday/germans-loved-obama-now...

So the German's had the good sense to pass a law explicitly outlawing this kind of activity.

Kudos to them!

MeetTozter's picture

Yes, but could Merkel be taking such a stance because she is participating in a reciprocal arrangement where Germany spies on "foreign Americans" for Obama, and USA spies on "foreign Germans" for Merkel.  All the Weasels get their data with plausible deniability.

We're all Stasi now, if we don't get caught, it's legal.

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

It stems from Rumsfeld's formulation "you're either with us or you're against us". In the end, Germans and British policies do NOT line up 100% with the US, of course not. So in the end, the US is against everyone. Do we seriously think that is a good way forward? Hilary is more of the same US vs. THEM thinking. In the end there's no more US left...it's all THEM. Including the American people themselves. What then?

Here's a nice thought exercise: if Obomba wanted to stop the spying programs, could he? (That's a big IF becauise clearly he loves them...but an interesting question).

Again, instructive to look at it through the only lens that matters: the money. Obomba wouldn't want the unemployment and grief caused by shutting down America's War on Everything.

So admit it 'Murkans: the country is ALL WAR ALL THE TIME. Nice.

andrewp111's picture

There are no "friends" in Geopolitics. Nations have interests, but never have "friends". The Europeans have been playing these games for over 2000 years, and they know this truth all too well. The French have one of the biggest spy services in the world. As far as I am concerned, the NSA and CIA spying on the EU is peachey keen. They are Intelligence Agencies. Spying on foreign powers is their job.

Ghordius's picture

"Here's a nice thought exercise: if Obomba wanted to stop the spying programs, could he?" this depends on what Congress says on the matter, doesn't it? What does Congress want?

chubbar's picture

Former whistleblower Tice says that he has personally handled the files on congressmen, judges, military officers and other high level individuals all the way up to the president.

IF this is true then it is also true that those people are not the ones calling the shots at the NSA. That is the takeaway on all of this. There is a shadow gov't that does NOT include our elected officials.

Beam Me Up Scotty's picture

What does Congress want?  They want to spy on you more than Obomba does.  Lindsay Graham and John McCain are fucking Pelosi and Feinstein on this.  Its like one big "we all hate Snowden" (and LOVE the NSA) orgy.

Tom Terrific's picture

Disgusting isn't it?  When are we going to start beheading them like the "freedom fighters" did to Bishop Francios Murad over in Syria the other day?

Sparkey's picture

I've never really `Loved` Obama, I thought he was a little too slick from the get go! but I'm not unemotional about Stars of stage and screen and politics which is, I suppose, now just another off shoot of the theatrical meme, scripts and directors and all the other things you need to put over a really good show to-day, I was in love with Brittany for a while, yet I always had time for Paris's pictures, I think Obama will have a hard time to compete with the Kardashian baby, with his `Cute` name, I forget what it is at the moment, Lady Gaga was great, the eight most influential woman in the World, according to Yahoo, I think she would make a great politician, she always knows her lines and delivers them without a cackle!

disabledvet's picture

again "everyone is doing it." the only way forward is for a truth and reconciliation commission to unfold. we'll see how "Egypt" unfolds here. this whole thing is a total nut roll.