Hello, Angela Merkel. Have you forgotten about this?
The German government has a federal institution that investigates political organisations deemed to be a threat to the country’s Basic Law (that is, its constitution).
This institution performs legal surveillance on politicians it deems to be potential threats to democracy in Germany.
Frau Kanzlerin, I agree with you that the US has no business tapping your phones. Hopefully, you are convincing Barack Obama that any kind of surveillance of foreign politicians that are allies to the US should be verboten.
But it’s not like your government has never tapped a politician’s phone.
What’s more, I support your government when it does so within the reasonable limits imposed by a democratic society. Why? Because there are those in existing German political parties today that mean democracy no good, and they _are_ a threat.
The neo-Nazis in the Nationaldemocratische Partei Deutschland (NPD) do pose a right-wing extremist threat. The neo-Stalinists in die Linke (“the Left Party” in English) do pose a left-wing extremist threat. And your intelligence officers have generally been wise enough to be able to tell the difference between someone actively acting to bring down democracy and someone who is just a gasbag faux populist who talks big but doesn’t actually do anything contrary to Germany’s current free and democratic order.
I’m not asking you not to confront President Obama – the NSA _is_ out of bounds tapping your phone. But I am asking you to contribute to putting this stuff in perspective, and working to establish workable boundaries for the intelligence services, of the kind that exists at your own Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
After all, to ask that surveillance end in all areas means, in Germany’s context, letting neo-Nazis and neo-Stalinists plot the Fourth Reich or the Return Of The Wall with impunity.
Similarly, as we all know (or should know), the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon attack were brought to heel by means of evidence gathered through surveillance. Some of it was private surveillance (the cameras mounted outside a store on Boylston Street, handheld cell phones), and some of it involved federal law enforcement utilisation of “big data” databases to piece the puzzle together. If it weren’t for surveillance, the perps would have gotten away with it, and we know from witness testimony that their next target was New York City.
Those who think Islamists have anything different in kind planned for Americans than Nazis and Communists have planned for Germany are certainly living in a dream world of their own construction.
I admire the Germans for seeing the world for what it is, and their enemies for who they are. They should understand, more than anyone, when Americans are doing the same.