What Germany Thinks Of "The Biggest Bugging Scandal In History"

Tyler Durden's picture

Having taken the US, Hong Kong, Russia, Europe and of course Latin America by storm, Snowden's revelations are now focusing on the symbiotic relationship between the NSA and Germany's (very experienced) secret services.

According to an interview that will be published in this week's edition of Spiegel, "American intelligence agency whistleblower Edward Snowden criticizes the methods and power of the National Security Agency. Snowden said the NSA people are "in bed together with the Germans." He added that the NSA's "Foreign Affairs Directorate" is responsible for partnerships with other countries. The partnerships are organized in a way that authorities in other countries can "insulate their political leaders from the backlash" in the event it becomes public "how grievously they're violating global privacy." Telecommunications companies partner with the NSA and people are "normally selected for targeting" based on their "Facebook or webmail content."

In other words, more of the same everywhere that "developed" people are "hated for their freedoms" (sic).

So how does Germany - which unlike the US, has had extensive historic experience with assorted iterations of secret police, first the Gestapo then Stazi - react? The following opinion piece also from Spiegel exposes how different, and also how familiar, the German and US responses to the "the biggest bugging scandal in history" truly are.

From Jan Fleischhauer of Spiegel:

Having experienced two dictatorships with notoriously effective intelligence systems, Germans are furious about NSA eavesdropping. Now they want to put even stricter rules in place -- but without paying the necessary price.

So maybe I'm not in the best position to comment on the NSA spying scandal. Ten days ago, I traveled to the United States to stay in a vacation home on the East Coast. "As a patriot, I find that traveling to America has become unacceptable," a colleague of mine texted me on Monday. In my own defense, I can only say that the scope of the scandal could not have been foreseen when I began my journey.

Since then, however, one has much to fret about. If I understand things correctly, the Americans are in the fast lane to setting up a state of hyper-surveillance in Europe ruled over by data dictator Barack Obama. And all good Germans are united in their outrage. Even Sigmar Gabriel, head of the center-left Social Democrats, is calling for prosecutors to launch an investigation into the head of the NSA.

Here in America, it's hard to come by reliable information on the scandal. I open up the New York Times every day hoping to learn something deeper. But even though it's the leading newspaper among the world's left-leaning elite, it only devoted a small side section to the biggest bugging scandal in history. On Tuesday, it broke a pattern by publishing a piece about the uproar sparked by revelations that the US had bugged the EU diplomatic representation in Washington. But, of course, it only got a slot on Page 4, behind stories about Syria, Egypt and the lax lending practices of Chinese banks. In fact, the "Gray Lady" deemed its coverage of Wimbledon more important than writing about how the US intelligence agency has violated the civil rights of millions.

Different Concepts of Privacy

It's hard to explain to Americans how Germans see this issue. Try telling someone from the US why we Germans have no problem sitting in a sauna full of naked people but get nervous when the Google camera-car rolls by and takes digital images of our houses. I gave it my best shot, but let's just say this: Our concept of the private sphere is not immediately clear to people abroad.

I've also learned that it is no easy task to clarify to Americans why Germans are more than happy to consign their children to state care when they are just one year old but would go through hell and high water to keep their personal information out of state hands. In most cases, Americans don't like the state nosing into their personal affairs. But, when it comes to internal and external security, they have resigned themselves to the necessity of government meddling.

For some reason, we Germans have taken the exact opposite approach: We delegate things to the state that we could take care of ourselves. But when it comes to issues we can't do alone, we don't trust the state to do them either.

The problem with American bugging is that it will never be exactly clear what we're supposed to be afraid of. The threat is rather abstract -- but that makes it all the more threatening.

To understand why Germans are so hyper-attuned to data-privacy issues, one probably has to look into our past. There is good reason for a land that has experienced two dictatorships -- one with a Gestapo, the other with a Stasi -- to be more sensible when it comes to the dangers of absolute monitoring.

Not Just to America 's Benefit

The sad truth is that the Germans have and continue to benefit mightily from America's spying program. Unfortunately, Germany is far from being an empty patch on the global map of Islamic extremism. And the lion's share of the information on the activities of extremists in Germany has been provided by the very agencies that we are now so livid about. They are America's eyes and ears on the world -- but they are ours, too.

So far, Germans have been able to count on others providing tips when things threatened to get serious. But that can't continue forever. Likewise, when it comes to the surveillance business, there are no free lunches. This has prompted the BND, Germany's foreign intelligence agency, to ask for more funding for its own Internet-surveillance activities. But, as things now look, we would prefer to give our intelligence services fewer means to defend us from attacks than to expose ourselves to accusations that we violated civil rights. The Green party has already branded the current fiasco as a "meltdown of the constitutional state."


Politicians should be honest enough with voters to spell out the costs, should the country move away from data surveillance. If a suitcase bomb were to explode soon in a major German city because we were too late in sifting through the meta-data of the perpetrators, it would be nice if the Justice Ministry could muster the courage to explain to people that these kinds of attacks are now the price we pay for the right to determine what happens with our personal information -- a right we currently place so much value on.

Why Bug the EU?

Yet one major mystery remains at the end of this week of outrage: Why on earth would the United States bug an EU embassy? What did the Americans expect to learn from such eavesdropping? Was it really so crucial for them to unveil why it's no longer forbidden to sell bent cucumbers in the EU or why restaurants aren't allowed to put olive oil dispensers on tables?

There can be only one explanation: The NSA must have a form of institutional punishment set up for its employees. Whoever screws up is forced to listen to EU diplomats talk for hours on end. But, on the bright side, the current fiasco will put an end to this particular violation of human rights as well.

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zorba THE GREEK's picture

My wife says that the Government spying on us is for our own security and that Edward Snowden

is a traitor. If she wasn't such a great cook, I would have left her long ago.

fonzannoon's picture

you should consider taking cooking lessons.

ACP's picture

On the subject of government stupidity, one of the plane crash victims may have been run over by rescue workers (probably trying to reduce the distance they'd have to actually walk):


"We're from the government and we're here to help."


Um, no thanks, please...just stay away.

philipat's picture

Hey William (WB7) don't you have a Copyright on that image? Even so, you might want to waive the Royalties on this occasion in the name of a good cause??

macholatte's picture


Well I see the Germs really got screwed up on this.

Don't they know it's all Bush's fault.


Scarlett's picture

after ndaa and the guantanamo concentration camp, anyone who didn't look into the eyes of the kenyan and saw him for what he is deserves what's coming up

LetThemEatRand's picture

I can't believe you stole someone else's icon and then posted this shit.  NSA much?

Dugald's picture


No no no......and again no! don't you see, its really another fiendish British plot to baffle the krauts.......

Seer's picture

"Don't they know it's all Bush's fault."

Hm... perhaps, but perhaps they don't know the history of George HW Bush, of his being head of the US Central Intelligence Agency,of his being the promotor of a "New World Order?"

Thanks, Germany, thanks for providing the very instruments that are now haunting the entire world! (CIA and NASA got all kinds of "Good Germans" post WWII)  Welcome to BLOWBACK!  Now then, rather than trying to rid the world of the NSA why don't you start by cleaning up your own house (from whence these things seem traceable to).

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

Yeah, yeah al-qaeda etc but ask her if she thinks Supreme Court justices and presidential candidates should be spied on, if so, why, and by whom.

On second thought just dump her

zorba THE GREEK's picture

falun bong... I'm too old to look for a replacement and most women feel the same way she does

or don't have an opinion. But obviously, you feel as I do. Hey, you wouldn't be a single chick, would you?

LetThemEatRand's picture

I hope the Tylers are listening.  Could make big money -- ZH dating service.  Meet like minded people, etc.  And they could have their own ads up.

Harbanger's picture

I'd go out with you just to kick a lefty in the nuts.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Go Red Team! -- the nutless team that is obsessed with my nuts and what I do with them.

Harbanger's picture

What Teams?  Both sides in the US are the same and both want you to put your nuts in a vise.  It's your leftist ideolgy that I despise and would like to kick you in the nuts for.  Wherever your ideology is expressed, whether in the US or any other country, the leftists destroy everything they get their hands on.   You know that, but you won't admit it.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Admit Reagan was a complete douche and I will have a conversation with you, otherwise you are just talking big people talk like using "nuts" in a sentence that doesn't involve candy bars.

Totentänzerlied's picture

Reagan wasn't a big douce, he was a massive douche-clown-b-grade-actor.


LetThemEatRand's picture

Harbanger is still masturbating to a picture of Reagan trying to think of how to respond.

Harbanger's picture

You don't make the rules Lola, the sooner you realize that the better.

Harbanger's picture

When you can't defend your bullshit leftism (never) you go off on your bitch rants.  Nice.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Obama is a giant douche liar asshole.  Clinton was a complete douche asshole.  Reagan was a ______________.  Care to fill it in, person who claims he is not a Team Member?

Harbanger's picture

You don't make the rules Lola.  Leftists will throw their own mother under the bus, so what you say is meaningless.  All that matters is they served their purpose of growing Govt.  Obama nationalized 1/6 of the economy with Obamacare.  You supported that, now he's a liar asshole to you.  Bullshit!  From Pres. Wilson to Obama, as long as your leftist centrally planned agenda moves Forward, all is well. 

LetThemEatRand's picture

I thought so, upvoteyourself.  Did you use the picture of Reagan with the red tie?  Bet you did.  Sleep well.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Last word much?  P.S.  Don't get any of your Reagasm on the flag next to your bed.

Richard Whiskey's picture

If it ain't right it's wrong?

What's that make me being left handed....

Seer's picture

And clearly you love it, otherwise why bait in the first place?

General Public Announcement: Anyone who thinks they have The definition of all these buzzwords is an ass-clown.  Further, anyone who can't comprehend the meaning of "exponential function" ought not be let out of the house (or on the Internet).

geekgrrl's picture

Clever term. I once worked with a very smart high school graduate who was perhaps one of the most politically aware people I've ever spent any time around. He went on and on about Reagan, and how he used the credit card of the nation to purchase a false prosperity. He had rants that would run for hours, and he had a great command of the actual facts. I knew he was right on many accounts, as there were two reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer who wrote a book in the late '80s (sorry, can't remember the name) outlining all the financial shenanigans that happened under Reagan. Even Bush called it Voodoo economics, which is saying something.

geekgrrl's picture

To the downvoters too weak to provide a substantive argument, I would suggest you learn the facts about Reagan before jumping on that train.

NidStyles's picture

You're getting downvoted because you morons think Reagan is a hero to those of us here.


Most of us are anarchists.

geekgrrl's picture

Harbanger seems to think Reagan was great, so I will leave it to him (her?) to clarify.

Acet's picture

Don't expect much.

It has been my experience that those that go around tagging large swathes of people (for example, "lefties") and blaming them for everything that's wrong, are not exactly profound and wise thinkers.

The inability for self-criticism and to change tack on one's ideology is the mark of the uncritical brainwashed sheeple whose ideas were fully formed by others.

Harbanger's picture

Hi Geekgrrl,

I'm back.  I didn't notice you last night.  What makes you say I think Reagan was great?  I never mentioned him.  I simply wasn't playing along with lola's deflection of my criticism of leftism.  Lola is obsessed with reagan as are many liberals,  I don't know why, maybe you can shed some light.  To me he was just another president, not the worst, not the best.  I'd love to have an discussion with you at some point about different ideologies which you seem to not understand.

NumNutt's picture

Maybe they hate him so much because the largest shit hole leftwing government failed under his watch (USSR). The leftist may hate him but I can say that after living through the Carter fiasco of the 1970's (it was so much fun trying to figure out which day of the week you could buy gas depending on the odd or even number on your license plate). And now struggling under this cluster fuck they call the federal government run by self proclaimed socialist Obama, I would gladly take 4 more years of Reagan 'Vodoo economics'.

Seer's picture

Yeah, right, Reagan was the reason for a HORRIBLE system's collapse, not the FACT that it was a horrible system.  Bad systems FAIL!

Reagan didn't feel it necessary to abide by the Constitution, just like Obama.  Supporters of either are people I would never look to create a "better world in/with."  I detest ideologues and Party Pussies.

Left, Right.  I'll prefer to stay Correct, thank you.

BTW - Reagan is dead.  Long live Reagan!

geekgrrl's picture

You're right, you didn't bring up Reagan, that was LTER.

But, I think Reagan marked a turning point in our history. Carter said things people didn't want to hear: you need to conserve energy. He should know, being a nuclear engineer and energy-aware. But with the election of Reagan, what I personally sensed was a disconnect from reality in the population. The population here bought into an unsustainable fantasy based almost entirely on military and economic conquest in the pursuit of oil. Now that the chickens are starting to come home to roost, is this really such a surprise?

I would be happy to engage with you, because I think there is probably little difference between our views. One thing I have noticed is your use of the word liberal and so even before we engage, I would like to know what your definition of this word is.

Seer's picture

"Most of us are anarchists."


Did I miss the survey?  And if there was a survey, just what KIND of anarchism were the "true" anarchists' voting based on?

[NOTE: I'm trying to be both funny and serious.  I'd find this to be a most interesting topic for debate, though I don't know whether it's a safe debate to be had when the fascists/marxists are tapping into all our correspondence (I'd have to guess that if there's one thing that BOTH "sides"(?) agree on it's that anarchists present a direct threat to their power)].

geekgrrl's picture

These are great questions and I agree it needs open debate. I also agree that this environment does not lend itself to these kinds of open discussions.

But I will say that heteroarchies would be much preferable to the existing hierarchies. Anarchy would be ideal, but I suspect there will always be folks who want to profit off the labor of others.

Steel Magnolia's picture

Obviously she is spending way too much time in the kitchen. Snowden is not a traitor in my eyes. Obama is the traitor to anyone that is paying the least bit of attention. He gets more dangerous every day. God Help the USA because we are in a heap of trouble. The enemy sleeps in Our White House..

NoDebt's picture

Dude-  Obama didn't know about this.  He just learned about it when he read this article.  And he's pissed.  He's TOTALLY against this shit.

Don't worry, he'll straighten this out.  He just needs more time.  His plate is full of a lot of other stuff he just became aware of recently- IRS scandal, Benghazi, AP scandal, etc.  He's just one guy trying his best against a whole city full of people who hide the truth from him.  He's got to prioritize, but don't worry- he's going to straighten this out.


Go Tribe's picture

Oh, thank goodness. I was beginning to doubt his commitment to my well being.

mickeyman's picture

And Guantanamo. He's just discovered that terrible abuses have occurred there.

williambanzai7's picture

It sounds funny, but this is clearly indicative of the strategy they, whoever they are, have devised for him. He is an oblivious fool surrounded by people who are told they can do whatever is plausibly deniable as long as it does not show up in his TV den.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Been the strategy for a while.  Bush wasn't reading about pet goats to kids during 9/11 by accident.  It's odd that this works.  You would think people would be pissed that their elected leader is (potrayed as) clueless to all the bad shit being done under his nose.  

zorba THE GREEK's picture

WB7, The oblivious fool hand picked those around him. Obama must take credit for their iniquities.