Opinion: The show must go on | Opinion | DW | 02.07.2015
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Opinion: The show must go on

Again, documents show how the NSA spied on politicians and institutions - and once again, we pretend to be indignant. It's got the makings of a tragicomedy. But it's not funny at all, says DW's Marcel Fürstenau.

Germany's BND tapped President Barack Obama's mobile phone! Wouldn't that be a funny punch line to the two-year scandal surrounding the National Security Agency (NSA). Along the lines of, if the NSA can do it, the BND can do it, too. What a good idea that would be, the German government might be thinking.

The truth is, the Germans depend on the Americans. In the field of defense - i.e. international terrorism - there is no parity where weapons are concerned in transatlantic cooperation. The NSA has much more money, a lot more personnel and much better technology. And because that is the case, the BND has apparently deigned to be of almost unconditional service to its US partner.

A first suspicion emerged in the summer of 2013, when whistleblower Edward Snowden made public the NSA's surveillance of global telecommunications. It soon became clear that the BND also had to be involved. Code words like "prism" and "eikonal" have been circulating ever since. The cryptic terms mask concrete scandals like the tapping of Angela Merkel's mobile phone. That was something the most powerful woman in the world didn't find was a laughing matter. Previously, she had successfully tried to gloss over the NSA scandal - obviously because Germany was in the midst of an election campaign. Merkel wanted to keep her job at the helm. That is why then chief of staff Ronald Pofalla put on a show - and declared the scandal over.

Perfect timing

It's almost comical that the Wikileaks whistleblowing website published Merkel's bugged phone conversations just as Pofalla was scheduled to appear before a parliamentary NSA inquiry. Perhaps it's a coincidence, perhaps it's well calculated. In any case, the timing is perfect to breathe new life into the transatlantic spy story.

Deutsche Welle Marcel Fürstenau Kommentarbild ohne Mikrofon

DW's Marcel Fürstenau

The months of bickering between the chancellor's office and parliament on how to handle secret files have also been quite tedious. So, from the whistleblowing media and the parliament's point of view, it is important to keep the NSA-BND scandal alive.

People's indignation at the extent of the eavesdropping is simply ridiculous. If US (and other) intelligence services spy unabashedly in the chancellor's office, why should they ignore the cconomics ministry, or the defense ministry? This is where people deal with arms exports, arms control and foreign missions; it's about security issues and fighting terrorism. It's also where a lot of money can be made. So it's logical to spy everywhere.

The selector list

The German government has long since surpassed the moment of honesty. Possibly the chancellor's office was aware of the wiretapping of Merkel's mobile phone long before it became public knowledge. Perhaps her name and number are on the list of selectors consistently withheld from the German parliament's NSA committee. Imagine a BND expert discovering the chancellor's name on a NSA list of potential eavesdropping targets.

What a laugh! At the same time, it's sad that the scandal actually leads to such thoughts. The government, it seems, merrily continues to proceed along the lines of a motto popular in the US: "The show must go on!"

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