The secret government

According to Spiegel, Obama has told Angela Merkel that he knew nothing of “possible eavesdropping” by the NSA on her cell phone — which has been going on for over 10 years — and that he would have stopped it immediately had he known. So we have to assume one of three possibilities:

  1. Obama has decided to double down on the diplomatic affront by baldly lying to the leader of Germany.
  2. Cynics are right: Everyone spies on everyone, and everyone in the higher echelons of government knows about it, so Angela Merkel has felt obliged to collude with Obama to deceive the media and the public.
  3. Obama owes Edward Snowden an apology. The NSA was not working for the US government. It was out of control, slipping the leash of democratic control. Obama was himself naïve to think that he could simply order an investigation. Think back to what Obama said in August about the NSA and Snowden:

And if you look at the reports — even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden has put forward — all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s emails. What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused… If you are outside of the intelligence community, if you are the ordinary person and you start seeing a bunch of headlines saying, U.S.-Big Brother looking down on you, collecting telephone records, et cetera, well, understandably, people would be concerned. I would be, too, if I wasn’t inside the government…

But people may have better ideas and people may want to jigger slightly sort of the balance between the information that we can get versus the incremental encroachments on privacy that if haven’t already taken place might take place in a future administration, or as technologies develop further…. And so those are the kinds of things that I’m looking forward to having a conversation about.

It’s a typical insider fallacy. He has access to secret information, so he assumes he understands everything that’s going on, far better than the deluded privacy obsessives who have the misfortune of being “outside of the intelligence community”.

So, maybe the president should consider whether it might not have been important after all for a concerned citizen to take matters into his own hands, if even he needed the German news media to let him know what his spooks were up to.

2 thoughts on “The secret government”

  1. Nobody owes Edward Snowdon anything. If Merkel is upset about American spying, does she believe the Russians are spying on her? How about the French? What about the British? Certainly the Poles and the Czechs. In fact any country that fought Germany twice in the last century is spying on the Germans. The Germans committed horrible crimes and killed a lot of people; they were defeated badly . They should just get over it.

    1. I’m not going to be drawn into an argument about which present-day government is most responsible for horrible crimes or deserves to be spied on. I was commenting on the issue of US governance: If Obama was telling the truth, then Snowden revealed important information that even the president was kept in the dark about. Surely that undermines any claims that NSA espionage is being kept under proper democratic controls.

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