US surveillance a hot-button issue in Germany’s parliamentary elections

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Sarah Harvard Contributor
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The leaked U.S. national surveillance program is roiling German politics as well as American politics, according to The Associated Press.

Ahead of September’s parliamentary elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fire from center-left opponents for what they consider a blase response to the surveillance of German citizens.

Peer Steinbrueck of the Social Democratic Party has suggested that Merkel has violated her oath of office by failing to “keep damage from” her people.

Germany’s Green party leader Juergen Trittin told the AP that “the government is acting like the famous monkeys: hear no evil, speak no evil and definitely see no evil” in reference to the German government rejecting the NSA leaker’s asylum request.

Surveillance is a contentious issue in Germany, given the country’s history with the Nazi Gestapo and the communists’ Statsi in the East.

Der Spiegel, a German weekly publication, published reports alleging massive efforts by the U.S. to spy on Germany and European Union offices.

According to the publication, the NSA has monitored half a billion communication records and had bugged EU buildings. The recent spying has threatened trans-Atlantic relations with Merkel stating “the monitoring of friends — this is unacceptable, it can’t be tolerated. We’re no longer in the Cold War.”

Hans-Peter Friedrich, the interior minister of Germany, was sent to Washington for an unscheduled meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and  Attorney General Eric Holder. The interior minister later told the German public that the secret U.S. program PRISM has prevented five terrorist attacks in Germany by their specified searches on “terrorism-related information.”

It was Friedrich’s positive reviews of the surveillance programs that intensified the backlash. One poll showed nearly four out of five Germans believe their government knew of the surveillance in advance.

While many of Merkel’s opponents want immediate answers and claim she”doesn’t seem to care”, the German chancellor says that “Germany must wait for the US to declassify NSA files on spy programs before it reaches a conclusion about the scale of the activities.”

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