German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wrong to Tell President Obama NSA Activities Compare to Stasi

Comparison wide off the mark


no neck rub
White House

Reports out of Germany indicate that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, recently confronted President Obama about the NSA's surveillance activities. The Guardian reports:

Livid after learning from Der Spiegel magazine that the Americans were listening in to her personal mobile phone, Merkel confronted Obama with the accusation: "This is like the Stasi."

The newspaper also reported that Merkel was particularly angry that, based on the disclosures, "the NSA clearly couldn't be trusted with private information, because they let Snowden clean them out."

Indeed, US officials say they may never know how much information Snowden took, because the facility he worked in wasn't equipped with the kind of surveillance (!) technologies that could track that. One unnamed defense official claimed Snowden "stole… literally everything."

Merkel's comparison of the NSA to the Stasi is way off the mark. Merkel may have been born and raised in East Germany, but former Stasi officials themselves say it would've been a dream come true to collect the amount of data on citizens that the NSA does. Where the information collected by the Stasi would fill an estimated 48,000 filing cabinets, were the information the NSA Collects printed out it would take an estimated 42 trillion filing cabinets to store. You can see a visualization of that difference here.

President Obama may make a lot of media appearances, but he manages to avoid being confronted by uncomfortable truths, largely by manipulating a friendly press and cultivating friendly opinion-makers. Have you seen the president take a tough question on the revelations about the NSA's spying activities? Apparently he was outraged as you were when he read it in the papers. Nevertheless, Obama has been getting an earful on the NSA in private. Obama met with tech leaders yesterday to talk about the failures of the Obamacare website and the NSA's online surveillance. Those tech leaders also said they were upset when they found out about the NSA's activities, and told the president yesterday the revelations about the NSA's online operations damage their reputations and the wider economy.

Related: Watch Reason TV at the "Stop Watching Us" anti-NSA rally