Why Germany is more furious than most about spy revelations

by Toby Manhire / 11 July, 2013
They might be “hyper-attuned” to US data snooping, but are they in denial about the benefits?
The string of revelations about clandestine American surveillance programmes has prompted outrage around the world, but nowhere more so than Germany.

News that the US National Security Agency had been extensively snooping on European Union diplomatic communications had left Germans “furious”, writes Gregor Peter Schmitz in a signed editorial for the news weekly Der Spiegel.

For this is “a country that, through its own painful history during the Nazi era and under communist East Germany, has learned just what an overly curious state and paternalism can lead to. The Germans cherish their privacy and fear absolute control.”

Germany’s role in the continuing saga has been most prominently covered by Der Spiegel, which boasts an interview with the whistleblower at the centre of it all, Edward Snowden. He says NSA spooks were “in bed together with the Germans”, at the same time as spying on EU communications.

Elsewhere in Spiegel, however, conservative columnist Jan Fleischhauer argues that while Germans are “hyper-attuned to data privacy issues” they are in denial about the gains from surveillance.

“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,” he writes.

Politicians had failed to adequately “spell out the costs, should the country move away from data surveillance”.

And besides, he says, what could be less interesting than spying on the EU?

“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.”
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