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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid