Friday, February 7, 2014

The NSA and No End

Two nights ago the Carl-Schurz-Haus invited to a panel discussion on War on Terror und die NSA Debatte. The panel was composed of top-class people: Oliver Schröm (Well-known free German journalist), Dr. Andrew B. Denison (Director of Transatlantic Networks), and Prof. Dr. Josef Foschepoth (Professor of Modern History at Freiburg's university). Friederike Schulte, Director of Freiburg's Carl-Schurz-Haus led the debate in her competent and charming way. The hot topic drew quite an audience although the lecture hall 1098 of the university was not completely filled.

To say it right in the beginning: There was no public outcry from the audience. They knew already that spying is the second oldest trade in the world, that telephone conversations are never secret, and sending an e-mail is like sending a postcard. Fact is that American forces are stationed in Germany and the US government must protect them against all sorts of attacks. America is still the world power number one and would like to remain so. Power is supported by three pillars: economics (money), military, and policy. An effective national policy requires lots of information and a good knowledge of what is going on in the world around. While in Germany we count three intelligence services BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst), BfV (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz), and MAD (Militärischer Abschirmdienst) the US has many more. Ordered alphabetically there are the CIA, DIA, FBI, INR, NGA, NRO, NSA, OIA, OOI, and the Pentagon with five separate intelligence services for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Since long intelligence services have shifted from individual to strategic observations. Modern technical means allow them to separate the wheat from the chaff and to find the needle in the haystack.

When Germany following reunification in 1990 regained its sovereignty the American forces remaining in Germany had to be protected. The 4+2 Peace Treaty ersatz gave the Americans the power to do this "intelligence-wise". Before 1989 the two German states had been the hub of east-west spying. So it is naive to assume that intelligence activities stopped with the fall of the wall. Edward Snowden's disclosures came as a surprise not because the NSA was at all spying but because of the magnitude and the extend of the services the NSA is operating. Snowden triggered an avalanche and nothing is worse for an intelligence service than public attention.

During the Cold War American and German intelligence services worked closely together according to the principle: God bless America and America bless (West) Germany. As one panel member assumed: the BND spied and spies on all countries except the US. Indeed, following Snowden's revelations one political reaction in Germany asked for German counter-intelligence: Those who spy on us must be aware that they will become a target. LOL!

Other German reactions to the NSA affair are simply helpless frequently repeating the statement: Spying on friends? That does not work. Well, as we lately learned, it already worked for Chancellor Schröder in 2003 who had decided that Germany will not follow the US-led Operation Iraqi Freedom. In contrast, at that time Angela Merkel with her Christian Democrats in opposition to the then Red-Green government pleaded that Germany must help the USA. It turned out that her pro-American position did not help her. The NSA tapped her telephone too. Now as chancellor, Angela does not like to affront our American friends, e.g., in using four-letter-words like the US ambassador to the EU about the EU yesterday.

Some German officials propose that the States and Germany should conclude an anti-spy treaty. That is a blue-eyed position knowing that no government has its secret services under control. In the discussion I even went a step further saying: It is not in the interest of governments to control the activities of their secret services for only then they may expect to receive salient information.

Dr. Deninson said that Germany should be in favor of a strong America and the US would like to see Germany leading in Europe. As long as Germany does not play its role it cannot expect to enter in a dialog with the US on eye level. It was interesting to observe the different discussion cultures. Here the outspoken American, there the German professor who explained in length and carping details the results of his research, and in between the investigative journalist arguing prudently somewhat refined through negative experience. Their arguing supported by their sitting order on the panel reminded me of an aphorisme: Prophete rechts, Prophete links, das Weltkind in der Mitten.*
*Prophets right, and Prophets left, the world-child in the middle is drawn from Goethe's epigrammatic poem Dinner at Coblenz written in the summer of 1774 where he sat between Lavater and Basedow: Weltkind, literally "world-child," a term which Goethe applies to himself satirizing at the same time Lavater and his followers.

Should Germany lead in Europe as the American in Berlin Eric T. Hansen wrote in Die Zeit? Wenn nicht mehr nur Obama, Bush, Nixon und Co. in diversen US-Medien mit Hitler verglichen werden, sondern Merkel ebenso, dann wissen Sie, dass Deutschland auch vom Rest der Welt da draußen endlich als gleichberechtigter Partner anerkannt wurde (When not only Obama, Bush, Nixon, and company are compared to Hitler in various US-Media but Merkel as well then you know that eventually Germany is recognized as an equal partner by the rest of the world). Saying it clearer in an alteration to Emanuel Geibel's definition of Germany's vocation: Soll Europa am deutschen Wesen genesen? (Should Europe recover by going the German way?). I think the Greek reaction was sufficient Mr. Hansen!

4th Reich?
At the end the audience left somewhat unsatisfied. It possibly needs a whole series of lectures and discussions to come to grips with the NSA debate.

P.S.: It is comforting to know that Dr. Denison categorically excluded the NSA spying on German industry for such a practice would be against US law. According to him industrial espionage still works the classical way. Dirty men with slouch heads steal blueprints from e.g. German car-makers and fly them in their wallets over the Atlantic. I think this will not work for over here all is metric whereas in the States they need those blueprints dimensioned in inches.

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