Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: With Friends Like Obama, Who Needs Enemies?

Allies claim Obama personally authorized monitoring German chancellor's phone.

Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    US President Barack Obama, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, chat during a dinner at the Charlottenburg palace in Berlin Wednesday, June 19, 2013. Obama is on a two-day official visit to the German capital. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, pool)

    For anyone who believed Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign promises that he would be a leader who valued government openness and transparency, this has to hurt:

    President Barack Obama was dragged into the trans-Atlantic spying row after it was claimed he personally authorized the monitoring of Angela Merkel’s phone three years ago, [U.K. newspaper The Telegraph reports].

    The president allegedly allowed US intelligence to listen to calls from the German Chancellor’s mobile phone after he was briefed on the operation by Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), in 2010.

    The latest claim, reported in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, followed reports in Der Spiegel that the surveillance of Mrs Merkel’s phone began as long ago as 2002, when she was still the opposition leader, three years before being elected Chancellor. That monitoring only ended in the weeks before Mr Obama visited Berlin in June this year, the magazine added.

    Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s painful to watch any U.S. president get caught so publicly breaking international protocol and spying on our friends.

    Not our enemies. Our friends.

    Citing leaked US intelligence documents, it also reported that America conducted eavesdropping operations on the German government from a listening post at its embassy beside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, one of more than 80 such centers worldwide.

    Mr. Obama’s European allies will now ask him to say what he personally knew about the NSA’s global eavesdropping operation and its targeting of world leaders, including those from friendly states. The White House declined to comment on the German media reports.

    The news follows reports the NSA gained access to the phone records of over 70 million French citizens over a 30-day period earlier this year.

    The deeper problem here, of course, isn't just that the President personally knew what was happening and can't blame some out of control security apparatus for what happened.

    It’s that a government and a President that sees nothing wrong with spying on a country like Germany—Germany, for crying out loud!—is likely to find all kinds of exceptions to the need to hold back on spying elsewhere.

    This used to be a debate about how we should protect America and Americans from terrorist attacks.

    Now it just seems to be a situation where anything and everything is fair game.

    And that Barack Obama is no longer a defender of the privacy rights of citizens and international law.

    If he ever was.