News / Europe

US Spying Debate Continues in Germany

Head of the German Chancellery, Ronald Pofalla (file photo).Head of the German Chancellery, Ronald Pofalla (file photo).
x
Head of the German Chancellery, Ronald Pofalla (file photo).
Head of the German Chancellery, Ronald Pofalla (file photo).
Michael Scaturro
In Germany, debate continues over allegations of surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff testified before a parliamentary committee on Thursday, and the chancellor herself continues to come under fire by some who say she has not told the public enough about Germany's cooperation with U.S. intelligence services. Hearings on the issue seem to have become a platform for the opposition to weaken Merkel before the fall elections.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, quickly addressed the media before meeting with the intelligence oversight board.

Pofalla said he hoped to address criticism levied against Germany's intelligence agency.

Pofalla spoke privately to the 10-member body. Sebastian Feyock of the German Council on Foreign Relations said the committee will likely keep its findings secret in the near term.

"The government is supposed to report to the parliament on actual missions and the tasks that the secret services are engaged in. This is of course the reason why it's held in secret," Feyock said. "I don't think that the control committee will submit a report in the end of something like that."

Chancellor Merkel's government denies that German citizens' data was transferred en masse to the United States or to the NSA.  Members of the committee told reporters that they still are not comfortable with the information they have received from her government.

Germany appears to be the only country in Europe investigating the NSA spying allegations with such zeal. And Veit Medick, who is covering the hearings for the magazine Der Spiegel, said he thinks the reason is simple. "It's mainly because of the elections that we have in September," he stated.

Long history of cooperation with US

Medick said the Social Democratic Party (SPD) is trying to chip away at Merkel's nearly 20-point lead in the polls. But Medick said the investigations could backfire because the last government, composed of the very opposition now challenging Merkel, also cooperated closely with the U.S.

"They have a problem themselves, of course. The SPD and Greens were in government from 1998 up to 2005. After 9-11, they intensified and enhanced cooperation with U.S. intelligence, and their credibility is in question too," said Medick.

But Medick said Merkel's standing going into the election is so strong that the parties seem willing to pursue an investigation. "It's kind of their last chance to bring some heat into the campaign, which has not been there in the last months, or even years.  Merkel is way up in the polls and so this might be an instrument to get to Merkel.  This is what they are trying to do, at least," he noted.

Medick said polls have revealed that the German public is not too interested in the spying affair. "If you look at the reaction of German society - there is no reaction.  It's a media debate, I would say," stated Medick.

Medick and other observers said they think Chancellor Merkel's government will try to remain quiet on the NSA affair going into the elections and only respond when directly confronted with leaks.

"They only give information about what they do when they really have to. And I don't think that this strategy will change," said Medick. "Especially not when you look at the polls, saying no one really seems to care [in Germany].  The strategy might prove successful."

Two more hearings on the surveillance issue in Germany are planned between now and August, bringing the number to six. Whether they or additional leaks will affect the reelection campaign remains to be seen.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid