Last Update 23:16
Sunday, 20 October 2019

Merkel says 'Germany not a surveillance state

Though repudiating links to collaborated surveillance efforts with the US, Germany's Merkel insists that "the ends don't justify the means"

AFP , Friday 19 Jul 2013
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during a press conference in Berlin, Germany (Photo: AP)
Views: 611
Views: 611

Chancellor Angela Merkel said "Germany is not a surveillance state" and insisted she only learnt of sweeping US online snooping through press reports, during a lengthy election-campaign media grilling Friday.

Pressed on the US National Security Agency's PRISM programme, and Germany's knowledge of it, she said was unfamiliar with the details and that Berlin was still awaiting answers from Washington.

Merkel stressed that "German law applies on German soil" but also conceded that this has its limits in the age of global telecommunication systems, as she spoke during an annual summer press conference that lasted 100 minutes.

Nine weeks before elections, pressure is growing on Merkel over spying claims made by fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who also said Germany's BND foreign intelligence service cooperated with the NSA.

The centre-left opposition has charged Merkel broke her oath of office pledge to safeguard citizens' basic rights, especially to privacy of communications -- a sensitive issue given the country's secret police activities under the Nazi and East German communist regimes.

A survey published on Friday by public broadcaster ARD found that more than two-thirds of German voters are dissatisfied with the government's efforts to bring clarity to the murky affair.

However, the same poll also found that, at least so far, this has not dented the Merkel government's lead ahead of 22 September  elections. Two-thirds of respondents said the issue would not strongly affect the way they vote.

Merkel, who enjoys the image of a sensible pragmatist at home, again stressed that there are two sides to the debate on security versus freedom.

She reiterated the threat of global terror and the horrors of 9/11 and said it is normal for secret services to cooperate, mentioning past US intelligence help in locating German kidnap victims abroad.

But she also stressed, in general terms, that there must be limits to state snooping, that in some cases "the ends don't justify the means" and that "Germany is not a surveillance state. Germany is a country of freedom."

At the start of the press event, she sought to dampen hopes that she would clear up all the questions -- including whether the German army was informed years ago in Afghanistan of the PRISM programme, as one daily has reported.

"I want the say right away and very clearly that those who came here today expecting me to present the conclusions to our inquiries came here with false expectations," she said. "The task is not finished."

When she was repeatedly pressed on details, Merkel -- whose chancellory office oversees Germany's secret service operations -- said: "It's not my job to familiarise myself with all the details."

Short link:


Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.

© 2010 Ahram Online.