In the final analysis, the American president is in his element in the heart of the former communist dictatorship, which spied upon and filed reports on all its citizens with its sinister political police, the Stasi. Shocking? We will not let him off the hook, this president, a curious winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who refrained from closing Guantanamo, and whose spying on our emails, our phone conversations, and our Facebook accounts has just been discovered. It was a promise, this Democrat was to break with George Bush. Wake up. At least for the present column, we will call him “Obabush.”
It’s that “smart diplomacy” thing in action!
Contrastingly David’s Medienkritik (Germany) notes that Der Spiegel (Mirror) also jumps on the bandwagon with: Obama’s Soft Totalitarianism: Europe Must Protect Itself from America and with that recent article some hint as to the small crowd-size that resulted in his visit to the Brandenburg Gate – which was in East Germany…
Is Barack Obama a friend? Revelations about his government’s vast spying program call that assumption into doubt. The European Union must protect the Continent from America’s reach for omnipotence.
On Tuesday, Barack Obama is coming to Germany. But who, really, will be visiting? He is the 44th president of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. He is an intelligent lawyer. And he is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
But is he a friend? The revelations brought to us by IT expert Edward Snowden have made certain what paranoid computer geeks and left-wing conspiracy theorists have long claimed: that we are being watched. All the time and everywhere. And it is the Americans who are doing the watching.
On Tuesday, the head of the largest and most all-encompassing surveillance system ever invented is coming for a visit. If Barack Obama is our friend, then we really don’t need to be terribly worried about our enemies…
German citizens should be able to expect that their government will protect them from spying by foreign governments. But the German interior minister says instead: “We are grateful for the excellent cooperation with US secret services.” Friedrich didn’t even try to cover up his own incompetence on the surveillance issue. “Everything we know about it, we have learned from the media,” he said. The head of the country’s domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, was not any more enlightened. “I didn’t know anything about it,” he said. And Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was also apparently in the dark. “These reports are extremely unsettling,” she said.
With all due respect: These are the people who are supposed to be protecting our rights? If it wasn’t so frightening, it would be absurd.
Friedrich’s quote from the weekend was particularly quaint: “I have no reason to doubt that the US respects rights and the law.” Yet in a way, he is right. The problem is not the violation of certain laws. Rather, in the US the laws themselves are the problem. The NSA, in fact, didn’t even overreach its own authority when it sucked up 97 billion pieces of data in one single 30-day period last March. Rather, it was acting on the orders of the entire US government, including the executive, legislative and judicial branches, the Democrats, the Republicans, the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Supreme Court. They are all in favor. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, merely shrugged her shoulders and said: “It’s legal.” (my emphasis)
Here’s what’s interesting about this article: The small headline below the article summary reads “The German Prism: Berlin Wants to Spy Too.” If America’s activities constitute spying – than the German government not only “wants to spy” – it has been “spying” for decades now. In many instances, Germany and other European governments have acted more aggressively than the United States.
Even Augstein tacitly acknowledges that his criticism of the United States could equally be a criticism of European governments. This is the pot calling the kettle black while simultaneously criticizing it. Put another way, Augstein’s commentary is both inconsistent and incoherent.
It boils down to this: Every society must grapple with the eternal conflict between privacy and security – and in many cases – European countries come down more heavily on the side of security. America – after all – does not have a National ID card or Anmeldungspflicht.
Not YET anyhow, though there is a push among some in the U.S. towards PAPERS PLEASE.
And if I recall correctly, the Nobel Peace Prize (which is a huge and cruel joke) is a European prize…