Opinion: Much ado about nothing | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 06.07.2014
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Opinion: Much ado about nothing

In the US, Germany's NSA scandal doesn't make the headlines. That's because intelligence gathering is seen as something normal there. And this will not change in the future, writes DW correspondent Miodrag Soric.

First there was the phone tapping scandal: it turned out that the NSA had been bugging German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone for several years. Now, there is a new scandal: an employee of the German Intelligence Services (BND) sold confidential information to the NSA over a one-and-a-half-year period. Many Germans are outraged. German parliamentarians and media are putting out the message that Americans are not to be trusted. The matter is being investigated by the German federal prosecutor.

How is the US reacting to all this? Not at all at the moment. The Americans are busy enjoying their extended weekend, celebrating their national holiday. US newspapers are either ignoring the issue or quoting German reports. Congress members and senators are in their electoral districts; the government has donned a cloak of silence.

And calling up any American think tank employee this weekend results in the same response: surprise at the fact that Germans are making such a big fuss, even getting the US ambassador to Germany involved. The fact is, they say, US intelligence agencies spy on other countries, even those in the "friends" category, which includes Israel, France and Germany. And they have no plans to change their behavior in the future. So while Germany may desire special treatment, Washington will not react to such requests.

Security is top priority

President Obama made this clear during the German chancellor's most recent visit to the White House. Obama agreed to put a stop to tapping Merkel's phone, but expressed no intention to make any other concessions - especially nothing resembling a no-spy agreement.

Miodrag Soric

DW's Miodrag Soric

Several hundred US secret-service agents continue to be active in Germany - on an official basis. Most of them are registered diplomats and many cooperate with the BND. If a BND staffer offers them additional, useful-sounding information off the radar, they will take it, even buy it, and channel it to the US. This will continue to be so in the future.

According to estimates, all US intelligence services have a budget of around 50 billion dollars - an enormous sum. Fearing the possibility of another 9/11-style terrorist attack, the US will continue to invest in the NSA, CIA and DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency). In any case, domestic security is more important to Washington than hurt feelings on the part of allies. And while this may seem arrogance from the European perspective, to Americans it is something natural.

Benefits for all parties

In the end, there is nothing left for Germany to do but concentrate on protecting itself - including from US spying. If Germany invested more money into this, the Americans would understand the move.

After all, the Obama administration knows that its allies, including Germany, benefit from the information collected by US intelligence agencies. This is why, according to experts, the US government is hoping that the diplomatic dispute caused by the BND employee will die down quickly, and business as usual can resume soon.

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