Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Invasive state surveillance" from a German perspective


Since I've been writing about German history during the Nazi era off and on for some months, it seems only right to amplify a contemporary German opinion about the NSA spying program being revealed by the Guardian UK by way of Edward Snowden. (The U.S. military has blocked its computers from reaching that site, but you still can read it.)

Here's Malte Spitz, a leading Green Party politician and candidate for office:

In Germany, whenever the government begins to infringe on individual freedom, society stands up. Given our history, we Germans are not willing to trade in our liberty for potentially better security. Germans have experienced firsthand what happens when the government knows too much about someone. In the past 80 years, Germans have felt the betrayal of neighbors who informed for the Gestapo and the fear that best friends might be potential informants for the Stasi. Homes were tapped. Millions were monitored.

Although these two dictatorships, Nazi and Communist, are gone and we now live in a unified and stable democracy, we have not forgotten what happens when secret police or intelligence agencies disregard privacy. It is an integral part of our history and gives young and old alike a critical perspective on state surveillance systems.

The rest of this opinion piece tells of Spitz' experiment with acquiring his own phone metadata and showing what an open book it made his doings over a six month period.

... the events of the past few weeks concerning the collection of metadata and private e-mail and social-media content have made many Germans further question Mr. Obama’s proclaimed commitment to the individual freedoms we hold dear.
During Mr. Obama’s presidency, no American political debate has received as much attention in Germany as the N.S.A. Prism program. People are beginning to second-guess the belief that digital communication stays private. It changes both our perception of communication and our trust in Mr. Obama.

Loss of trust is apparently appropriate. Unless the government comes clean, political leaders can only expect to be disbelieved.
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Here's my recent German history series about the three volumes by Richard J. Evans.
The Coming of the Third Reich
The Third Reich in Power
The Third Reich at War

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