Saturday, July 13, 2013

Past and Present

The German artist Oliver Bienkowski projected the message United Stasi of America on to the back side of the US embassy in Berlin. The projection, which included an image of Internet activist and hacker icon Kim Schmitz, aka "Kim Dotcom," took place at around 1 a.m. local time on Sunday night (July 7) and lasted for a mere 30 seconds before police guarding the embassy asked him to move on (Der Spiegel).

This work of art did not amuse Angela Merkel. Our chancellor stated that NSA and Stasi activities must not be compared. Having grown up in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) she should well know the infamous Staatssicherheitsdienst from her past but did she know about the activities of the American secret service in present-day Germany? The Federal Government is maintaining a low profile with respect to the NSA although the spokesman said: Abhören von Freunden, das ist inakzeptabel, das geht gar nicht (Tapping friends is unacceptable; that won't do).

Before I dig farther into the matter I would like you to take a closer look at the photo showing some of Germany's past. To the left you distinguish two historical landmarks: the Reichstag building with Sir Norman Foster's cupola and the Brandenburg Gate. Ten years ago I made my first steps in the internet composing a photo gallery with my collection of historical pictures. I went into the history of these two Berlin landmarks that nowadays are tourist attractions.

The message on the US embassy building was projected over the concrete stelae of the Holocaust memorial remembering Germany's darkest past. On the photo you can just make out the stelae carrying that past into the present.

With respect to NSA activities in Germany some authorities still claim they did not know anything. Our Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich said that US snoopery is OK and any criticism is anti-American. Did the German intelligence service profit from the work of the NSA? It seems highly probable when the same minister boasts that Germany has so far been untroubled by Al Qaida attacks.

The Red-Green* opposition takes on the Black-Yellow government on the issue using a double strategy in accusing them of being either completely ignorant about NSA activities in Germany or of knowing everything but lying to the people. Note, it's campaign time in Germany. While the press is greatly excited about the affair most men and women on the street could not care less. So far they do not honor the opposition's attack on the government. Even the (Orange) Pirates standing for free and open information for everyone did not improve their poll rating. With only 2% intending to vote for them in the federal election in September they will not make it into the Bundestag (parliament).
*I gave an explanation of the color coding of Germany's political parties earlier.

On Friday, July 18, Mr. Friedrich went to Washington.

I am Mr. Friedrich from Germany. Let us have a straight talk (©Struttmann, BZ).
When Friedrich was interviewed after his talks with NSA officials he said he was satisfied although the information he did not receive was NOFORN (not for foreigners); it was top secret.

During the talks Vice President Biden showed two fingers to Friedrich (©DPA).
Does anybody know what this gesture means?
Friedrich only mentioned that thanks to NSA activities 45 Al Qaida attacks on the European Union had been foiled with five targeted on Germany. Did the NSA reveal those round figures, did they reveal anything at all? Did Friedrich make up these numbers? The press now writes of only two cases for Germany. Nobody knows, but as time goes by the earlier statement: Tapping friends is unacceptable is changing to the question: Is illegal tapping acceptable for friends?

When President Obama came to Berlin on June 19, commemorating President Kennedy's historical visit 50 years ago, no NSA-shadow had yet fallen on American-German relations.

President Kennedy in Berlin in 1963 in the presence of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (left)
 and Berlin's Governing Mayor Willy Brandt (farther to the left).
It looks as if JFK is memorizing his famous words: Ich bin ein Berliner (©TIME).
In Berlin President Obama simply wanted to make the past meet the present but instead of uttering a memorable historical sentence he took off his jacket "among friends".

President Obama in front of the Brandenburg Gate with his jacket taken off (©DPA).
I find it sad that the NSA affair has destroyed part of the trust that had slowly been building up again following the deep mistrust between our two nations during the two Bush administrations.

What happened to the "artist"? Officially, a Berlin spokesman confirmed on Friday, Bienkowski is suspected of having violated a law against "insulting organs and representatives of foreign countries." So far, however, the artist has not yet even been approached by the authorities, though the Berlin police said he would soon be invited in for questioning (Der Spiegel).

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