Europe views NSA scandal as ‘middle-schoolers run amok without supervision’
RT:How do you see Europe’s relations with the US changing after all of this?
Ray McGovern: Well this is a big deal. I checked the French and German newspapers today. Le Monde has a stinging article and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which is by far the most respected daily in Germany and arguably in Europe, there were 12 articles – I printed them out – 12 of them on this issue today. One of the commentaries used a word that really is unlawful to use in Germany verrückt. It means crazy, but it means much more crazy than our English word crazy. If you do this (motions a finger to forehead) on the Autobahn that means you’re saying) verrückt to someone else. That’s a legal offense, you can be put in jail for that or fined. So this one commentary called our president verrückt, asked has he really gone verrückt? Another one said ‘You know, when General Alexander responds to these disclosures he looks dahn sehr dumm. Dumm is dumb, dahn sehr is, well – literally it is completely and beautifully dumb – but really it means really darn dumb. And so they’re using these images in this language – dummheit - that they’ve never used before and, I’ve lived in Germany for five years, this means something. Will it blow over? Not until there has been a whole lot of damage done to our trans-Atlantic relationship.
RT:You’re saying a whole lot of damage, you really believe there could be? There’s a lot of rhetoric coming out of Brussels today, well there was that summit, is now over but will we really see action from Europe and can it afford to derail relations with the US over this?
RM: It’s a more attitudinal thing, what they see in our country is technology and a national security apparatus without any adult supervision. What they see is a bunch of middle-schoolers given new tools then run amok. The Congress, they know are complicit and even some judges from this FISA court are complicit and so the question that they are probably asking themselves is ‘How complicit is Barack Obama? Does he know about all this?’ And that is a very interesting question because there is such a thing as plausible denial where the intelligence services say ‘Well, we’ll do this and we won’t tell the president. It’s better for him not to know and then he can claim plausible denial.’ That may be what’s going on here with Obama and if he had a backbone he’d do something about that.
RT:There’s a former CIA agent, and the NSA seems to be playing it down a bit, saying that all the intelligence that was gathered was really of little value. Would you agree with that?
RM: Well I don’t know what they would learn from Angela Merkel’s cell phone that they wouldn’t learn from more traditional or other technical sources so for them to admit that up from that nothing of much value was gained, that’s an indictment of how they allow this kind of thing to run amok without any adult consideration of the consequences. Do we do this to foreigners? Well of course we do but there is the old Latin saying that we need to have some sense in the middle. Virtue is in the middle and you don’t go to excesses just because you can and just because the technology makes it possible for you to do that.
RT:Why target the likes of Angela Merkel if this is supposedly in the name of counter-terrorism and international security?
RM: Well the simple answer is because they can. It’s a lot easier, curiously enough, to wrap up everything than it is to target specific people or to target – as our Fourth Amendment says – under probable cause. That is completely gone by the board. Abroad you can maybe justify it in a sense but at home here, and that is what concerns me as a person sworn to a sacred oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, when I see our Fourth Amendment shredded to pieces that to me is a lot more important that Angela Merkel’s handy cell phone.
RT:Just how much of this was economic/industrial/financial espionage as well, to find out what big deals a country might be looking at with the US trying to undercut or otherwise get in there. Is that an aspect of course?
RM: It used to be a prohibition against that, honored pretty much but sometimes there were breaches of that. Now I can’t escape the conclusion that that must be involved here too and when you consider that we share almost all our intelligence with the British and with the Israelis, well I would say that the Europeans would wonder about if this gives the British and the Israelis and other commonwealth allies of ours a leg up when they’re going to negotiations. I think the negotiations on the free trade pact are really in for some trouble because they know the history of this now.