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Outrage over NSA

Sabina CasagrandeOctober 24, 2013

The German media has voiced outrage at the NSA's alleged spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone. But editorials also criticized her for previously having played down the broader eavesdropping scandal.

close-up of many stacked newspapers in a row
Image: Fotolia/flashpics

The national daily Die Welt called the alleged probing a "diplomatic bomb" and "a punch in the face of German security agencies." The newspaper pointed out how little Merkel did when it was German citizens, not herself, who were being spied on. "The federal republic did not call in the ambassador, Merkel did not pick up the phone when it became apparent that foreign agencies like the NSA or Britain's GCHQ spied massively on Internet users' data," it said. "It apparently had to come this far, that the chancellor's mobile phone became a target. Now there's the protest that was missing when the population was being spied on."

Merkel is finding out the hard way, said the regional daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. The German government was only now beginning to comprehend what was going on. When the NSA affair had reached its zenith in the summer, Merkel's coalition government was provocatively disinterested in the whole matter. "But now, when it affects Angela Merkel herself, she quickly complains personally to the president of the United States of America," it said. Merkel believes that the communication of a government leader should be taboo. "Of course, Merkel is completely right. But what about the communication of the utterly respectable Jane Doe? Is that not taboo as well?"

The weekly Die Zeit called the allegations "a flagrant political and diplomatic affront." But they did not come as a surprise in view of the NSA's well-known surveillance activities. These did not exclude government leaders of allied nations. "What is very telling is that Merkel only now, where she is herself affected, is vigorously reacting and complaining to US President Barack Obama. That would have already been her duty when there were reports of the NSA's million fold invasion of German citizen's privacy. Their basic rights are just as valuable as those of the Chancellor."

In view of the fact that Merkel's mobile phone is her "control center" - images of the chancellor texting away on her phone are legendary - Süddeutsche Zeitung said the tapping represented an "attack on her political heart." The Munich-based newspaper said the previously trusting relationship between Germany and the United States had been lost. "You don't even want to imagine how Obama's intelligence agencies deal with hostile countries when you see how they treat their closest allies."

The conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pointed out the US had not perceived how much damage its intelligence agencies' activities in Europe had caused and are still causing. "They are massively burdening the transatlantic relationship." The Americans shouldn't be surprised when calls become louder for example to suspend European-US free trade talks. "American intelligence activities are increasingly becoming a nightmare: for Europeans in general and Germany in particular, who are keen to maintain good ties to the US." Regardless of whether the reports are true or not, growing distrust was the result, the paper said.