NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has recently leaked documents stating that the US has been monitoring phone calls of Angela Merkel and other European leaders. According to a German newspaper, Der Spiegel, the US has been monitoring Angela Merkel’s phone since 2002. Such operations are said to be carried out by the US in 80 destinations around the world including Brazil, Mexico and France. This has resulted in growing anti American sentiment in these countries. Angela Merkel has shown passionate discontent to the claims that America wiretaps her phones. German people have a history of having mass surveillance been done on them by dictatorial Communist and Nazi regimes. This has caused them to be more sensitive to such situations. German authorities have asked Washington to provide an explanation. The US authorities have stated that they ‘have not and will not be monitoring’ her mobile phone. This does not necessarily mean that her phone was not monitored in the past. US and Germany are seen to be close allies but this beach of trust has only degraded the ties between the two nations. Tapping her phone is a clear infringement on her personal rights and sovereignty, which makes her response justifiable. “It will take a lot of time”, Angela said, “to build back trust.”
These revelations, however, should not come as a surprise to her as spying by various intelligence services is very well known. In fact, Germany has its own intelligence service directly under the chancellor, called the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), which has a comprehensive scheme of foreign intelligence gathering. Although some of the anger shown by the Chancellor may be genuine, it may have also been influenced by the German public outcry against the actions of the NSA.
American spying operations tend to be well known for states such as China and Russia but the desire to wire tap a close ally such as Germany may seem strange to many. The decision may have been influenced by the US desire to get the best deal out of any bilateral trade agreements. By monitoring Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, the US can find out how to get the best bargain out of any agreement with Germany. It could also have been done to speculate about prospective German domestic policy and find out whether American companies should invest in Germany.
The US stature on the world stage has already been failing. The usage of drones has caused widespread discontent as the morality and ethics of using remote control weapons on humans is questionable. The relatively high number of civilian casualties caused by drones has further added to the negative public perception towards their usage. The spying operations carried out by the NSA have resulted in a further degradation of US International relations. German investments in US markets will now suffer, as any German-US deal will be put under scrutiny. Furthermore, it will be harder for the US to put forward reforms through the UN Security Council. Nations such as Germany and France are members of the Security Council and any reform put forward by the US, regardless of its aim, would be seen with suspicion. It will also cause the US to find it harder to convince European nations to partake as allies in conflicts around the world.
Strangely enough, the UK has not provided noticeable reactions to the whole situation. There is a deal between the UK and US, which prevents such spying operations between the two states. The UK may also be holding back from reacting as it may have similar spying operations of its own. Recent reports suggest that the UK Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) have been spying on a German data cable.
The validity of the information provided is also something that must be questioned. Edward Snowden has provided information whilst living under asylum in Moscow. As a former member of the NSA, he has information about the workings of other security agencies as well. The fact that he is only providing information about the American intelligence services may be because he wishes to further his personal gains. Furthermore, the fact that he has chosen to seek asylum in Moscow is rather suspicious. There is growing tension between Russia and the US regarding the situation in Syria. Russian authorities wish to give Assad more time to dispossess hiws chemical weapons than the US is willing to offer.
The damage caused to US-German relationships is one, which will take a long time to heal. The US now has to conduct a complete review of its international policy and change the way it takes part in international affairs to improve its stand in the world.