Despite “justified questions” to the American intelligence community regarding eavesdropping on German networks, the US remains Berlin’s “most loyal ally”, announced Chancellor Angela Merkel in interview to Die Zeit weekly.
Merkel has made her first detailed comment into the unraveling diplomatic scandal with the America’s National Security Agency (NSA) global telecommunication eavesdropping, including those of its European allies, Germany foremost among them.
It emerged recently that Germany happens to be the most-snooped-on EU country by the American National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA’s real-time online surveillance PRISM program allows US intelligence agencies to intercept virtually any communications over the internet, phone calls and makes possible direct access to files stored on the servers of major internet companies.
Merkel declared that she herself has learnt about the US surveillance programs, such as the NSA’s PRISM spy program, “through the current reporting” in the media.
In early July spokesman Steffen Seibert announced on the behalf of Chancellor Merkel that “The monitoring of friends – this is unacceptable. It can’t be tolerated,” adding that Merkel had already delivered her concerns to the US. “We are no longer in the Cold War,” Seibert added.
The German government subsequently summoned US Ambassador Philip Murphy to Berlin to explain the incendiary reports.
At the same time according to new revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Germany’s Spiegel magazine, the American NSA and Germany’s intelligence agencies are “in bed together.”
Seibert told Reuters this week that German’s Federal Intelligence Agency’s (BND) cooperation with the NSA “took place within strict legal and judicial guidelines and is controlled by the competent parliamentary committee.”
‘Intelligence is essential for democracies’
Merkel stressed that intelligence “has always been and will in future be essential for the security of citizens” of democratic countries. “A country without intelligence work would be too vulnerable,” Merkel said.
At the same time, she observed that there must be a “balance between maximum freedom and what the state needs to give its citizens the greatest possible security.”
Merkel emphasized that German-American special relationship should not be endangered by the incident.
“America has been, and is, our most loyal ally over all the decades,” Merkel said, but pointed out that Washington should clear up the situation with the US allegedly bugging the embassies of the European countries and the EU facilities, noting that “the Cold War is over.”
Stasi and NSA are not comparable
In acknowledgment of the Germany’s contemporary history, Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, refused to make any parallels between the methods of work of DDR’s secret police Stasi and America’s NSA.
“For me, there is absolutely no comparison between the Stasi and the work of intelligence agencies in democratic states,” she was quoted as saying. “They are two completely different things and such comparisons only lead to a trivialization of what the Stasi did to [East Germany’s] people,” said Merkel.
In the face of the national elections in September, Angela Merkel has come under fierce criticism in connection with the NSA spying scandal for not protesting unequivocally enough, while various German politicians demanded to stop spying immediately.
Germany’s center-left opposition insists on questioning country’s officials with a view to find out what exactly they knew about the American surveillance of German communications before the eavesdropping scandal emerged.
Earlier Germany’s Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger both declined any knowledge of the eavesdropping performed by the American US in German networks.
In the interview to Die Zeit Chancellor Merkel revealed that reports from German intelligence agencies are being delivered to her chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla who coordinates their work from the chancellery.
The head of the center-left opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) Sigmar Gabriel told Spiegel Online that “Ms. Merkel is now trying to shift political responsibility to her chief of staff.”
“That’s an old game: [pretending] not knowing anything at first, trying to play down the problem and then finally pointing the finger at a staff member. But it’s not going to work because it’s clear that the dimensions of this scandal are so great that no person other than the chancellor can ensure that basic rights are defended in Germany,” the SPD leader claimed.
Today battling terrorism is impossible “without the possibility of telecommunications monitoring,” Merkel told the weekly. “The work of intelligence agencies in democratic states was always vital to the safety of citizens and will remain so in the future.”
In the meantime, Friedrich is meeting US Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco in Washington on Friday for talks dedicated to the NSA scandal. Though Merkel’s government is not likely to pedal the spying issue, Berlin surely expects explanation from Washington in regards of the ‘Snowdengate’ “for all the more-than-justified questions”, Merkel was quoted as telling Die Zeit.