Thursday, April 10, 2014

Global Impact: Update--Germany Asks US What Information It Gathered on Chancellor Angela Merkel, No Response from Obama

According to Reuters, the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the Obama Administration precisely what information the National Security Agency (NSA) Washington had collected after monitoring her mobile phone for years but got no response, a German lawmaker said on Wednesday (April 9).

Omid Nouripour, a Member of Parliament for the opposition Greens Party, asked the German government in a formal parliamentary query if it had contacted Washington to discover what the NSA found out.

In a reply dated April 7, an official in the interior ministry who was tasked with answering Nouripour's questions replied that the government had asked about any information on Merkel, but received no answer.

COMMENT: Reports in October about the monitoring - based on unauthorized disclosures by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, caused outrage in Germany, which is sensitive about surveillance because of abuses by East Germany's Stasi security police and the Nazi's Gestapo.

Nouripour, head of foreign policy issues for the Greens, said he also asked if the government had sought documents or files that might have been created in connection with the monitoring of Merkel's mobile phone and if the US government was still holding records of her calls.

Germany's interior minister asked the US Embassy in Berlin for "information about the facts of the case" on October 24, 2013, the interior ministry told Nouripour in the government's reply. "The US government has not provided any relevant information to the German government."

Allegations that the United States monitored the phone calls of 35 world leaders, including Merkel, prompted Germany to summon the US ambassador for the first time in living memory.

If President Obama had authorized the eavesdropping on 35 trusted allies, it seems apparent that the President had authorized NSA to engage in wholesale economic espionage on so many foreign leaders that include trusted allies as well as foes...simply because Washington had the technology to engage in such overreaches.

Having worked extensively in the US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), where counter-intelligence is a major program activity, I understand fully the role of government agencies to spy on one's adversaries, yet eavesdropping on trusted allies  seems to be a very poor way of rewarding trusted allies for their loyalty.

At a minimum, it seems warranted that President Obama should consider tendering a written apology to all of those trusted allies that he had NSA spy on, particularly for purposes of economic espionage, which is a bit of a stretch well beyond counter-terrorism.

In January 2014 banned US eavesdropping on the leaders of close friends and allies, and began reining in the vast archive of Americans' phone mega-data, seeking to reassure Americans and foreigners alike that the United States would respect privacy rights.