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Does the NSA need to destroy its file on Angela Merkel to repair the western alliance?

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Does the NSA need to destroy its file on Angela Merkel to repair the western alliance?

Alex Helling's picture
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A German Green party MP, Omid Nouripour its foreign policy spokesperson, has suggested that the United States if it wants to rebuild its relations with Germany should destroy the NSA’s files on German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Omid Nouripour wrote:
Close co-operation between western allies requires joint values – also in relation to the activities of our intelligence services… Trying to sit out the NSA scandal won't work: we can't afford to let the remaining open questions strain relations during on the current crisis [I presume that with Russia over Ukraine]
Germany and the United States have enough of a divergent view over relations with Russia and how to act on the Ukraine crisis without home grown mistrust from phone hacking.

Nouripour’s suggestion is therefore that the United States should destroy the NSA’s files on the German Chancellor. This is referring to the recordings and files that are the result of the hacking of Merkel’s phone which lasted for ten years but which the Americans have promised has now ended. The document that was leaked telling us that the USA had hacked the phones of numerous important foreign leaders “states that some 300 automatically generated "cites," or citations, are provided for Angela Merkel alone.”

So far while the USA was quick to try to repair relations with Germany by promising it was no longer listening in on the Chancellors phone calls and that it would not do so again it has been unwilling to go a step further and allow the Germans to know precisely what the NSA collected. This makes it seem that the United States cares little for its relationship with Germany despite the latter’s key significance in the EU, especially when it comes to sanctions vis a vis Russia.

The Germans want digital concessions; Merkel herself want a no-spy agreement. But Merkel seems unlikely to get this. A German Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert says that questions over the NSA surveillance are unlikely to be cleared up so “concrete results in this area can’t be expected.”

The Greens therefore suggest that destroying the NSA file would be symbolic. It would also mean that Merkel gets something out of her visit to the United States which is threatening to be a bit lacking in substance.

However would it actually be beneficial? Something symbolic is useful only if it is actually symbolic of something. If it is simply a cover for a tense relationship then it would mean little except to the newspapers.

For the German government it would not get to the heart of the problem; that they are not going to get the concessions they want. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called the American response so far “inadequate… America should be interested in improving the current situation. And words alone won't achieve that.” For the German people it would mean even less. Does it really matter to them if their leader’s file is destroyed when the same is not happening for other Germans? There would seem to be little point in such a symbol.

For the United States as well it would seem to be a pretty pointless concession; they would still have the threat of prosecution in Germany hanging over them, that is outside Merkel's control. Despite this they clearly should make the concession if they think it will do any good and actually help to repair relations. The problem is that it probably won’t. Only 45% of Germans think their country is an integral part of the western alliance, with 49% wanting to be in a more neutral position. To shift such opinion a lot more than a sop to Merkel is needed.

Digital Freedoms Debate: ‘This House believes German Prosecutors should investigate NSA surveillance of Angela Merkel’ http://digitalfreedoms.idebate.org/debatabase/debates/politics/house-believes-german-prosecutors-should-investigate-nsa-surveillance

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/27/merkel-obama-nsa-scandal-washington-talks

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/10/angela-merkel-denied-access-nsa-file

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/gchq-and-nsa-targeted-private-german-companies-a-961444.html

2 years 36 weeks ago
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