Cyber-snooping backlash builds in Berlin

2013-06-11 20:50
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Berlin - German outrage over a secret US internet spying programme is building before a visit by Barack Obama next week, with senior members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government demanding a full explanation from the president when he lands in Berlin.

Merkel's spokesperson has said she will raise the issue with Obama in talks next Wednesday. That could cast a cloud over the visit, designed to celebrate US-German ties on the 50th anniversary of a famous speech in which President John F Kennedy declared: "Ich bin ein Berliner".

Government surveillance is an extremely sensitive topic in Germany, where memories of East Germany's feared Stasi secret police and its extensive network of informants are still fresh in the minds of many citizens.

In a guest editorial for Spiegel Online on Tuesday, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said reports the United States could access and track virtually all forms of internet communication were "deeply disconcerting" and potentially "dangerous".

"The more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is," she said.

"The suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored. For that reason, openness and clarification by the US administration itself is paramount at this point. All facts must be put on the table."

Germans still enamoured of Obama

Opposition parties have jumped on the issue, keen to put a dampener on the Merkel-Obama talks and prevent them from boosting the chancellor as she gears up for a September parliamentary election in which she is seeking a third term.

"This looks to me like it could become one of the biggest data privacy scandals ever," Greens leader Renate Kuenast told Reuters.

Obama is due to land in Berlin on Tuesday night, hold talks and a news conference with Merkel on Wednesday and then give a speech in front of thousands at the Brandenburg Gate.

It is his first trip to the German capital since he passed through in 2008 during his first campaign for the presidency, giving a speech at the Victory Column in the Tiergarten park that attracted 200 000 adoring fans.

Five years on, Germans are still enamoured of Obama: A poll last week showed 82% view him favourably.

But his failure to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison, extensive use of drones to kill suspected al-Qaeda militants and the latest revelations about the secret surveillance programme, codenamed Prism, have tempered enthusiasm.

Grounds for 'massive concern'

According to documents leaked to the Washington Post and Guardian newspapers, the programme gave US officials access to e-mails, web chats and other communications from companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

Obama has defended it as a "modest encroachment" on privacy and reassured Americans that no one is listening to their phone calls.

But US law puts virtually no eavesdropping restrictions on the communications of foreigners, meaning in theory that Washington could be delving into the private Internet communications of Germans and other Europeans.

Peter Schaar, the German official with responsibility for data privacy, said this was grounds for "massive concern" in Europe.

"The problem is that we Europeans are not protected from what appears to be a very comprehensive surveillance programme," he told the Handelsblatt newspaper. "Neither European nor German rules apply here, and American laws only protect Americans."

Read more on:    angela merkel  |  barack obama  |  germany  |  us  |  privacy
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

This hilarious song pokes fun at how addicted we are to our phones.

 
 

I love summer.24

The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014
10 of the strangest Christmas traditions around the world

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Any chance to explore the distant shores of things yet to be found will fascinate you. The challenge is dealing with the issues...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.