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Former Merkel aide defends himself over NSA claims

Marcel FürstenauJuly 3, 2015

The former head of Angela Merkel's chancellery, Ronald Pofalla, has blamed the media for misinterpreting the ongoing NSA affair. Finding no fault in his behavior, he instead voiced concern about Germany's security.

Deutschland NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss Ronald Pofalla
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Stache

Just before 6:00 p.m. local time on Thursday, Ronald Pofalla addressed the NSA investigative committee in German parliament. He spent an hour defending himself and justifying his actions. His stated that Germany had been on the verge of concluding a no-spy agreement with the USA after Edward Snowden's surveillance revelations in the summer of 2013.

At the time, Pofalla was in charge of the German office for the coordination of intelligence services. He no longer held a position in the newly-formed government in December of the same year in order to join the management board of Deutsche Bahn, Germany's state rail company. The no-spy agreement did not materialize. Now, public documents suggest that the US government had at no time intended to conclude such an agreement.

Pofalla still seems emotionally stirred by the events that took place two years ago. He emphatically fends off accusations of having announced the end of the NSA affair in August 2013. He said his statement referred to allegations by the German news magazine "Der Spiegel", which claimed that Germany's intelligence service, the BND, had illegally passed on the data of millions of German citizens to the Americans. It is, however, true that the information did actually come from the BND's facility in Bad Aibling, Germany, and Afghanistan. The NSA inquiry committee has spent the past 15 months investigating whether, and to what extent, Germans have been targeted.

"People have been waiting for me to make the slightest mistake"

According to Pofalla's interpretation, the debate was falsely guided. "Doesn't anyone notice what's going wrong in Germany here?" asked Merkel's longtime confidante. "It is not coincidental that Germany has thus far been spared from attacks." He claimed that it was the result of the intelligence service's good work and its international networking. Pofalla referred to the cooperation with the NSA in particular and he explicitly thanked the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) and the Bundespolizei (Federal Police).

Pofalla claims that that insufficient media coverage in the summer of 2013 prompted him to "break the chain of omitted information or one-sided coverage". He was certain that the media was waiting for the smallest mistake on his part. He thus had to resort to discussing the NSA affair with the heads of intelligence services and other responsible authorities.

Pofalla claimed that his public announcement after the secret meetings of the parliamentary control committee for intelligence services "corresponded to the beliefs of the government and the agencies."