Germans are very protective of their privacy because of the historical experience during the Nazi era and Stasi following the war, Annie Machon a former intelligence officer for MI5 has told RT.
However the German intelligence agencies used the system which US put in place to spy on the Germans.
RT: The revelations go even further against Chancellor Merkel’s initial angry response to Washington’s surveillance operations, how do you think you could explain these contradictions?
Annie Machon: The US has dealt Germany a marked deck of cards, to be quite honest, because what we’re looking at here is on one hand they are accessing Germany as a level III, a tier III partner in the internet spying game. They seem to be spying on them in the same way they are spying on China, or Iraq, or Saudi Arabia. On the other hand they are encouraging BND BfV, the German intelligence agencies to use the system which they’ve put in place to spy on the Germans. So it is giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
When Snowden’s initial information came out, it appeared that what we’re looking at was Germany was shocked, because they have a constitution that was supposed to protect the people’s privacy, they are supposed to protect people’s private communications and yet the NSA was spying on Germany. There were the initial sounds from the government and Angela Merkel and the people like that saying- we’re shocked, we’re shocked.
Yet the new revelations that are coming out in Der Spiegel, actually indicate that the German intelligence agency was very keen to get a piece of the action, to help the PRISM program, which is getting all the meta-data from social media and the Temper program which is mainlining into intelligence information coming out from all the optic cables. So it is sort of a lot of hypocrisy as well coming from the government.
RT: Now Edward Snowden’s revelations that Germany was spied on by the US did upset many, some even comparing the White House to East Germany’s former secret service-Stasi, what do you think those critics are saying now that it’s known that Berlin was cooperating with Washington?
AM: I think that they will be saying that there are even more likenesses to the old Stasi. Because we have a situation in Germany where because of their historical experience with the Gestapo in World War II and the Stasi in East Germany, they’ve put in a very strong cast iron constitution to protect the people from the invasion of their privacy, from being spied on. And this is what the Germans for decades have taken for granted. They have certain legal protections. And we have seen this time and again when other European-wide initiatives have tried to be imposed on Germany, where things like facial recognition data on Google or Facebook have been banned in Germany.
And yet the BND and the BfV, the two intelligence agencies in
Germany have been doing this sort of spying, so I think the
hypocrisy is quite astounding and will create a great deal of
anger and questions rightly how much the German government knew
what was going on.
RT: Snowden’s leaks claim that Germany has been watched much closely than other EU countries. What kind of threat could Washington’s close ally pose to US interest or wars it not a threat that they were looking for?
AM: I think it is just the ability to snoop. It might be well be a reaction to certain privacy laws in Germany. The Germans cannot conceivably pose a threat to the US, apart from through trade powers or something. In fact they have been bending over backwards to assist the US in Afghanistan. They provided more intelligence about Afghanistan than any other NATO state. And yet the US is doing this to Germany.
Most of the countries don’t seem that worried about the PRISM and the Temper programs which spy on everybody… At least in Germany there is sense of that because of historic reasons. People are worried about the surveillance state that is encroaching.
RT: Both countries claim surveillance is essential to providing security, why so much outcry if people have nothing to hide?
AM: Firstly there’s a right to privacy enshrined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the WWII and that can only be infringed if you pose a direct threat to the state. And secondly they can change the goal post, what it means to be a threat to the state.
So for example at the moment, if you want to go out and protest about government issues, or nuclear issues, or peace issues and you want to wave a placard on the street, most people would think that is exercising your democratic right. In many European countries, many other countries too, this is now being deemed to be an extremist behavior, or violently extremist behavior or even terrorism.
So the laws of the land can change and you become a threat even though you think you’re just exercising your democratic rights. And we’ve seen this time and time again across most European countries. So I think people need to be aware, just because they don’t think they are doing anything wrong at the moment, that situation could change. It is a very slippery slope.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.