Spying on allies harms security, Merkel warns

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a government statement as part of a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday that countries who spy on their allies risk destroying trust, resulting in less rather than more security.

Merkel used her inaugural address to parliament after her re-election to slam the United States and Britain over their spy programs. Among the allegations to surface from secret U.S. government documents released by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden last year are that friendly countries and their leaders – including Merkel – have been the target of electronic eavesdropping.

The U.S. says its surveillance programs focus on threats to national security, including terrorism.

“Actions where the ends justify the means, where everything that is technically possible is done, harms trust,” Merkel said. “It sows distrust. In the end there will be less, not more, security.”

The German leader said her government felt a responsibility to protect the privacy rights of its citizens, too. But she rejected calls to pressure Washington into signing a “no spy” agreement between the two countries by suspending trade talks between the U.S. and the European Union.

Merkel, whose own mobile phone was allegedly monitored by the U.S. National Security Agency, is planning to travel to Washington in coming months for talks with President Barack Obama.

She will hold talks Friday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “on the transatlantic partnership and global political issues,” her spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Merkel stressed that “Germany could not wish for a better partner than the U.S.” but also conceded that the allies remain “far apart” on the “ethical question” of freedom versus security in state surveillance.

“Is it right that our closest partners such as the U.S. and Britain gain access to all imaginable data, saying this is for their own security and the security of their partners?” asked Merkel. “I am leading these talks with the force of our arguments,” she said. “I think we have good ones.”

She indicated that she did not expect any easy solutions, saying “it’s a long path ahead.”

Merkel also said that despite the recent friction, the “trans-Atlantic partnership remains of outstanding importance.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 30, 2014, on page 10.




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