Americans Spying on Americans

This is how a society destroys itself.


“Everyone knows that gathering so much information is bullshit,” said Reinhard Weisshuhn, a German political activist and foreign policy adviser. “It’s a total breach of trust by the government. This is how a society destroys itself.”

“In our case, we thought we were being paranoid until we saw what they’d gathered and realized we’d been naive,” Weisshuhn said. “Here, it’s not the whistle-blower who is wrong, it’s the gathering of information.”

Weisshuhn's perspective on the Snowden scandal rings true throughout Germany, where many believe that Snowden isn’t the bad guy. They can see the bitter irony – that the guy who called out Americans spying on Americans is being charged under the Espionage act.

The NSA leaks provided by Edward Snowden have caused outrage in Germany where crowds gave Obama a warm welcome with posters reading #YesWeScan, and Your privacy ends here. Memories of the Stasi past colour the German's view of PRISM, America's covert, totalizing and Orwellian U.S surveillance program revealed by Snowden.

As Matthew Schofield writes for McClathy Washington Bureau:

Wolfgang Schmidt was seated in Berlin’s 1,200-foot-high TV tower, one of the few remaining landmarks left from the former East Germany. Peering out over the city that lived in fear when the communist party ruled it, he pondered the magnitude of domestic spying in the United States under the Obama administration. A smile spread across his face.

“You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,” he said, recalling the days when he was a lieutenant colonel in the defunct communist country’s secret police, the Stasi.

…but even Schmidt, 73, who headed one of the more infamous departments in the infamous Stasi, called himself appalled. The dark side to gathering such a broad, seemingly untargeted, amount of information is obvious, he said. “It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”

Germany's center-left newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung took Obama to task over the surveillance issue. “Governments do not have the right to conceal broad lines of policy,” the newspaper wrote. “President Obama is operating according to an odd maxim: ‘I am doing a lot of the same things that George W. Bush did, but you can trust me because I am the one doing it.’ Not even Obama is deserving of that much trust.”

Read the rest at McClatchyDC.