Thousands of Germans on Saturday took part in demonstrations against US intelligence surveillance abroad that extends to private individuals in Europe.
German intelligence agencies fully upheld German law, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff insisted on Thursday, seeking to limit the damage after allegations German spies were in cahoots with US agents and knew of their mass surveillance.
Media reports of the United States National Security Agency’s electronic spying operation have angered Germans and put Merkel and her officials on the defensive when pressed to explain what, if anything, they knew and how they intend to call Washington to account.
Merkel’s chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, responsible for Germany’s intelligence agencies, spent three hours before a confidential cross-party parliamentary committee, where he was grilled on how much German spies knew about the U.S. spying operation codenamed Prism.
Last month, the United States confirmed the existence of an operation codenamed Prism after ex-spy agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that it mines data from users of Google, Facebook, Skype and other U.S. companies.
Protecting personal data is generally a more sensitive issue in Europe than in the U.S. — and particularly in Germany, not least because of memories of surveillance and repression by communist East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi and the Nazis’ Gestapo.
The committee’s chairman, opposition Social Democrats (SPD) parliamentarian Thomas Oppermann, however, argued that nothing had been achieved on Thursday. “We’ve made no progress whatsoever,” he said, adding that either the government is not being forthright or “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come out strongly in favour of an international agreement to protect electronic data, following revelations by fugitive former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden about US surveillance programme PRISM.
“If digital communication raises new questions worldwide, then we should take up the challenge. Germany is working for that,” she said when asked whether an agreement modelled on the Kyoto Protocol that sets binding obligations on industrialised countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases was possible.
She remains the frontrunner for the vote, and a new poll suggests the snooping affair is not yet a major election issue – but the opposition hopes this will change while the media are turning increasingly hostile.
Snowden, whose passport has been revoked by Washington, has been marooned in Moscow airport’s transit zone for the past three weeks, as he seeks asylum in a bid to evade US espionage charges for his leaks.
The Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Interior of Germany have examined the issue of a possible granting of asylum to the former US intelligence employee Edward Snowden, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is stepping up efforts to head off the threat posed to her re-election bid by the scandal surrounding allegations of rampant US surveillance of Europe’s communication networks.
Instead of Germany’s solid economic performance and Merkel’s deft handling of the euro debt crisis, the campaign for the September 22 election has been dominated recently by claims that her government knew the US was collating information from online services in Europe.
The uproar in Germany was triggered by US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on allied governments and their citizens through the so-called PRISM programme.
In addition to speaking to US President Barack Obama on the issue, Merkel has also called for strict European Union rules on the protection of personal data and demanded that US intelligence services adhere to German law.
Having so far failed to dent Merkel’s commanding lead in opinion polls, the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens have seized on the stream of claims about the US intelligence service collecting information from telephones, emails and internet searches.