European leaders are indignant after allegations that the U.S. bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone and monitored millions of German and French telephone calls. At a summit on Friday, European Union leaders warned that such spying could harm legitimate intelligence gathering efforts. Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that the National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. We discuss the issue.

Annette Heuser, executive director, Bertelsmann Foundation
Kurt Volker, executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership
Daniel Hamilton, executive director, Center for Transatlantic Relations; executive director of the American Consortium on EU Studies

  • Slappy

    The only entity the US government should be rebuilding trust with is the PEOPLE.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Shall we hold our breath waiting for that to happen?

      • chrisnfolsom

        Perhaps I am an optimist, but I trust our government much more then I trust industry. Sure they are making mistakes – this is a very tough time with wars and financial issues as well as a disfunctional political system where we would rather look like fools then get business done. Sure the NSA is going crazy, but we gave them unlimited funds and scope after 9/11 – pendulums of privacy and government power swing back and forth all the time – remember McCarthy? We need to control things and work them through, not just blindly bash and rip each other apart. America is not just a country, but a brand and the last thing you want is to damage your brand appeal.

    • chrisnfolsom

      You fail to see that the government IS the people – it is you – so if the government is the problem so are you…

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Reading French, German, British newspapers and one gets a whole new view of just how livid German Chancellor Angela Merkel is. Remember these are supposed to be our CLOSE allies. And the phone was her personal phone!!!

    Good god who is running the NSA? Do any of them even care about the damage they are doing to this country?

    • Giarc

      Are you aware that in 1933 a coup was uncovered to overthrow FDR and replace him with a fascist leader? Behind it was a collection of rich families, including the Morgans (banks), Remingtons (guns), du Ponts (chemicals) etc. as well as the grandfather of George W Bush. My question would be, what connection do the higher-ups at NSA have with those rich families?

      More info:

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        Yes I am well aware of history. And GHWBush #1 who tossed around the term ‘new world order’, followed by GWBush #2 who gave us ‘homeland security’ and an ax to chop away at the U S Constitution.

  • GiorgioOrwell2nd

    The US is continuing to devolve into the laughing stock of the free world. We literally do the exact opposite of everything we run around the world preaching.

    There’s no good way out of this NSA predicament: If Obama knew about Merkel’s phone tapping, then he’s both a liar and a supreme hypocrite based on his platform of transparency and change from the Bush years of foreign policy (he’s starting to make Bush look like an amateur)…or if he didn’t know, then what else doesn’t he know that the NSA is doing? and why has he been covering for them since the Snowden leaks started.
    Clearly we live in a dangerous world (that we have created), and cloak and dagger is needed, but tapping an allied leaders cell phone??….And the fact this is happening under a supposed liberal’s watch, is proof that there is no difference between the two political parties when it comes to foreign policy objectives. If we had found out any country had been tapping Obama’s cell phone there would be HUGE implications. I voted for Obama twice, I’m now ashamed to admit, but I don’t mind watching him squirm through all these scandals because he has gone back on every campaign promise he made. (including the joke of “affordable” healthcare)

    • Ehkzu

      “a dangerous world (that we have created)”


      • chrisnfolsom

        We are at fault for many things, and this is a situation were we really screwed up. In a democracy everything is a popularity contest – not a reality contest. Items like this and others are very detrimental and in the end will cost us.

      • GiorgioOrwell2nd

        If you don’t see the connection between the US’s disastrous foreign policies around the world, and specifically in the Middle East for the past 30 years based entirely on needing cheap oil, there isn’t enough time on a comment board to educate someone that willfully blind.

    • Giarc

      Is the joke of the USA really so funny though?

      The CÎA probably assassinated this journalist in LA. Not funny!

      The Army’s assassination squad probably killed the DC Madam. Not funny.

  • Mjhmjh

    Every official US spokesmen I’ve heard comment on this has offered the defense that “everyone else is doing it”. To this, it is tempting to respond with the standard parental retort to this excuse: “If everyone else jumped off a cliff would you?”

    And while it is true that all governments do more spying than they admit, I do not believe that European governments have been tapping the US president’s personal phone.

    In my opinion, what the US has done is inexcusable. But not in the least surprising.

  • MetaI

    NSA gathers data from everyone, yet still missed on a number of attacks: Boston, Benghazi, etc. Gathering data does not seem to be a problem. Making use of it is a different matter. They keep piling on data after data. What about making sense of it all?

    • chrisnfolsom

      Perhaps their new data center will help with this – data analysis is the hidden power of computers moving forward. Businesses use it today to feed you ads and push you towards products in many different ways. At least in Europe they realize how important this data analysis is and are creating laws much more advanced then in America to allow you to control and access that data – our legislators are spending time trying to not pay the bills and fight each other meanwhile Google, yahoo, Walmart and all other stores and web sites are amassing truly personal data with little supervisions or limits.

      • Bob Fry

        Or perhaps not. The tag line of the TV show Person of Interest is quite apropos: “Violent crimes involving ordinary people [occur everyday]; people like you. Crimes the government considered ‘irrelevant’.”

        With the vast snooping and data analysis occurring that the NSA claims have averted numbers of terrorist acts, why don’t we see busloads of child pornographers, kidnappers, and murders being arrested and tried?

        Because in fact NSA is lying. They spy on everybody, collecting data like the crazy neighbor down the street whose garage is full to the rafters of junk they’ll never use. Better they stop their spying.

        • chrisnfolsom

          Well, we used to have neighbors who were in our business – truly, or falsely claiming and gossiping about our “business”. Now you can be a truly sick person and just move and take advantage of others. I am for monitoring – and helping those who have proven themselves a “threat”. Police should be able to see who was in an area based on cell phones over time and all felons should be tracked. We have the capability, but we know the threat of prison is not a deterrent by all the repeat offenders so we do need to work on that through very rigorous parole using technology most of us have in our cell phones. I want security, and using technology will help although the threat of big brother is a fear there are ways to deal with that, but we can’t fear it as we can’t stop it.

          • thucy

            Reading your not very convincing comments in defense of the NSA’s incompetent data collection brought to mind the Times tech reporter who had to listen to the same lame arguments for NSA spying and concluded wearily: “It’s not Orwell, it’s Kafka.”

          • chrisnfolsom

            I was more talking about information in general, and not the NSA – in not too many years we will have more information about us and others at hand and will have to deal with it. We need to talk and think about it – at least Europe believes your data, or data about you is yours – not Walmart, Google, Microsoft etc…. We need to discuss and come up with some safety as the information has MANY good uses from health to safety and all the above – much to much to just ignore and not benefit from.

  • Ehkzu

    You keep referring to Edward Snowden as a “whistleblower.” Whether you think he’s a hero or a villain, the one thing he isn’t is a whistleblower. That word describes a loyal employee of an institution–private or public–who discovers wrongdoing, fails to achieve reform from within that institution, then takes it public. But Snowden joined the NSA to do what he did. He was never a loyal employee. He never tried to achieve reform internally. He was a spy working for a libertarian ideology, not a foreign country, and his goal was a kind of cybervandalism in order to shame America into conforming to his ideology–or to become famous. Or some combination of those motivations.

    • MetaI

      Other than public disclosure, what is the difference between the NSA and Snowden? Snowden did exactly what NSA does, then disclosed what he found.

      • chrisnfolsom

        Snowden broke the law and his oath. Perhaps in the end it will be better, but this is really damaging and is costing us billions of dollars. He should have come back and faced the music even if it cost him his life just as the thousands of soldiers have risked their life in the military. The biggest problem was allowing so much information to be accessed by one person which is one of the dangers of using contractors rather then government employees.

      • Ehkzu

        Snowden did exactly the opposite of what the NSA does. You’re confusing means and ends.

    • GiorgioOrwell2nd

      Semantics, and naive semantics at that. Given that it would be impossible and downright stupid to try and reform the NSA from within….the next step would be to blow the whistle.

      • Ehkzu

        The naiveté lies in proposing that how people frame an argument–how they define themselves, their ideas, and those of their opponents–means nothing. Such people evidently know nothing of sociology.

        And you ignored the point that is the essence of whistleblowing–that the person didn’t join the organization under false pretenses in the first place, as Snowden himself says he did.

        Not being able to distinguish a whistleblower from a spy diminishes the respect we all owe to real whistleblowers.

        • GiorgioOrwell2nd

          I’m saying that this entire debate about whether we should call him a whistleblower, hero, traitor, double all nonsense and purposeful distraction using semantics. He was able to reveal things that many other whistleblowers (and yes he’s not the only NSA whistleblower) have been saying for years and have been ignored because they weren’t able to present the sheer amount of data that Snowden has, so I’m not sure where you think this respect for “real” whistleblowers comes from, they are universally ignored, sued and threatened into silence in the USA.
          It also says something about the way our supposed covert operations works if they hire sub-contractors with minimal clearance to have access to this kind of data to begin with, whatever Snowdens motivations are. Why would I care under what pretenses he joined the NSA or one of their subcontractors…that’s their job and they clearly failed on that as well.

    • Bob Fry

      Snowden was loyal to America and the US Constitution, not the NSA.

      • Ehkzu

        Says who? It is true that governments doing wrong invariably label dissidents as unpatriotic. But it is also true that unpatriotic dissidents often wrap the flag around their actions.

        Scoundrels of every stripe often claim to be patriotic, and wave their nation’s constitution as proof–as if their interpretation of the constitution trumps that of the nation’s government.

        So the claim alone won’t suffice. And when someone who claims to be patriotic harms his nation for some proposed/theoretical future benefit to that nation–a benefit according to beliefs most Americans don’t share–then flees to that nation’s antagonists for protection against his own nation’s wrath…don’t be surprised if his claims of loyalty are doubted by others.

        • chrisnfolsom

          Well put – we have the 1st Amendment and a Democratic process along with some states rights – the strength of our system. If that is not good enough then that’s too bad – what else do some of these people want? If they had dissention in a minority of their ranks they would not change for them…

      • chrisnfolsom

        That is as crazy as saying that creationists are doing right by their religion – not the hellbound secularist when all the facts are against a young earth (sorry). We are Americans and we have a democracy – play by the game, or change the game, or get out – don’t create your own rules under some separatists tortured extremist who start grasping at straws of reality to prop up their delusion.

      • Sensible Centrist

        No he was disloyal. He violated his oath of loyalty.

  • Ben Rawner

    How much do these European leaders spy on their own people and their anger is really that snowden let the cat out of the bag and if they don’t act angered the. They look comacent like thy really are?

  • chrisnfolsom

    In covert operations a large part of the game is to not get caught – if you cannot keep it secret you are better not doing it. Freedom of information is a double edge sword. Now, regarding information we NEED to keep up on the latest, and be the best at getting into private information if anything, just to make sure others cannot. China, Iran, Russia are constantly probing our networks we need to be the best – this is unfortunate – we need to know the scope as without that how can we make a decision?

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    I like what your distinguished German guest Annette Heuser said about ‘turning this crisis into an opportunity.’

    To record and expand on my on-air contribution:

    1) a catch-phrase that may help clarify our general modes of operation and choices at every level of society — from personal relationships to global public policy — is contrasting (and where possible, choosing) “overt intelligence” over “covert intelligence.”

    1) By leaning hard in the direction of “overt intelligence,” “we the people” by definition gain the tremendous advantage of involving a broader community. This almost automatically guarantees a more complete, more “intelligent” information gathering process — inherently more likely to succeed in creating benefits for all.

    2) A great way to do this (which we are engaging in here) could be applied in a bolder, more systematic way at the global level, namely: better exploiting the potential for regular, global electronic town meetings on matters of public policy.

  • 99to1

    Mainstream reporters and think tank “experts” routinely misrepresent
    the realities of computerized surveillance to understate and minimalize the threat to democracy.

    For example, Mr. Volker’s implication that the NSA can’t possibly “listen” to millions of phone calls – as though the NSA “listens” by assigning humans with headphones to listen to linear recordings.

    Human analysts do listen to some selected recordings, but only at the far end of an elaborate series of software filters that do most of the processing. Mass surveillance is highly automated all the way: collection, storage, analysis, and the compilation of dossiers, watchlists, and target lists for constant real-time surveillance, and ultimately, for sanctioned assassinations.

    Narus has provided NSA a tool called HONE that is able to analyze the content of telephone conversations (including VOIP such as Skype or Vonnage) to biometrically identify a particular individual’s voice patterns, and correlate this person’s identity with photographs of that individual and their personal phone numbers.

    It is this computerized power of cross-referencing data stored in multiple specialized databases that reveals the real reach of the surveillance state.

    Telephone interception is just one of the many tentacles of the Total Information Awareness national security state.

    The Narus example is not new news. The data-sucking power of Narus technology was understood by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein when he went
    public in 2006 revealing how the NSA pipes directly into the combined
    telecommunications flow (e-mail, cell phones, landline phones, data) flowing through
    regional Internet nodes such as that of AT&T in downtown San Francisco where data
    paths for the west coast states and Asia converge.

    To be clear: a Narus STA 6400 traffic analyzer does not merely snip “metadata.”

    It sucks up the entire content, whole.

    And where is this massive flood of data going”? To the largest repository of raw spying content in the world, the NSA data processing center in Bluffdale,
    Utah, that has gone operational in the past month.


    Narus is just one of hundreds of private subcontractor firms, funded by the hundreds of billions of GWOT dollars (“global war on terror”).

    See the WashingtonPost reports on Top Secret America to understand the enormity of this black operations monster that is consuming what’s left of American democracy.

  • Sensible Centrist

    I object to the characterization by Michael Krasny of Snowden as a “whistleblower”. A whistleblower exposes wrongdoing. Snowden has simply damaged US interests by disclosing classified information. He has not exposed any wrongdoing. To date, all the NSA disclosures have indicated that all of its activities were court-monitored and approved. That is not wrongdoing. And as to monitoring of world leaders’ conversations, this is also not wrongdoing…it is simply excellent intelligence collection, everyone does it, the wrongdoing is the disclosure. All who are protesting it are guilty of the same activity, or at least they would if they could. Indeed, other countries are far worse, because certain of our allies actually conduct economic espionage for the benefit of their industry, the US does not. Where the US screwed up was in allowing Snowden access to this data. That was a scandal.

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