The Campaign Spot

Remember When Obama Assured Germans the NSA Was ‘Focused on Threats to Our Security’?

President Obama, speaking to Chancellor Merkel and the German people at a ceremony at Brandenberg Gate back in June:

James Madison is right — which is why, even as we remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism, we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war. And in America, that means redoubling our efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo. (Applause.) It means tightly controlling our use of new technologies like drones. It means balancing the pursuit of security with the protection of privacy. (Applause.)

And I’m confident that that balance can be struck. I’m confident of that, and I’m confident that working with Germany, we can keep each other safe while at the same time maintaining those essential values for which we fought for.

Our current programs are bound by the rule of law, and they’re focused on threats to our security — not the communications of ordinary persons.

Two recent headlines:

Headline in AFP: US denies Obama knew of Merkel spying

Headline in the Daily Telegraph: Barack Obama ‘approved tapping Angela Merkel’s phone 3 years ago’

From the July 1 Morning Jolt:

If you’re a European diplomat, and you didn’t already assume that your phone calls, e-mails, and files are constantly being targeted by intelligence agencies from all kinds of countries, hostile and friendly and everything in between . . . well then, fire your counterintelligence staff. Welcome to the real world, Hans. If you’ve got information worth having, then somebody, somewhere, is trying to get it.

There’s a line of dialogue from Heat: “Assume they got our phones, assume they got our houses, assume they got us, right here, right now as we sit, everything. Assume it all.” It’s good advice for anyone connected with sensitive information, because even if U.S. intelligence agencies never contemplated snooping in those EU diplomats’ files, the Russians, Chinese, and who knows who else did it, and continue to do it, too. You’re only as secure as your countermeasures.

As an American, I’m not particularly bothered by the NSA giving a technological colonoscopy to every electronic gadget used by every European diplomat. That’s just good old-fashioned intelligence-gathering. The U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment doesn’t say Jacques merde about unreasonable searches on foreign officials.

Of course, it doesn’t bother me because I’m not a European diplomat and I never really thought Obama was the embodiment of hope and change. If I had gone to that big rally in Berlin in 2008 and told my constituents that this president really was the polar opposite of George W. Bush in all the ways that mattered to those kumbaya-minded Europeans, well . . . yeah, I’d feel like a fool, too.

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