Once, a presidential candidate said to his opponent, 'there you go again.' This is the exact phrase that came to my mind, when I saw that the NSA had bugged "die Handy-Kanzlerin". Yes, it is hilarious, and leaves this government scrambling in a way that borders on the comical. And it is funny. Someone must have misplaced Henry Stimson's memo that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail."
So, I began thinking about NSA and the whole government snooping thing. Anyone who has/had a jealous significant other knows that the "other" could be persuaded/inclined to find out the activities of the other. Especially if there is some suspicion about what they are doing. There is trust, but as one of the previously referred to gentlemen suggested, "trust but verify". Most spouses will do it (phone, email, chat, Facebook etc). So most spouses who have nothing to hide share passwords, leave phones unlocked (unless there is a kid in the house they might get on YouTube and watch inappropriate, beheading-type videos). Anyway, I digress: the United States is behaving like a jealous spouse towards practically everyone - Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany and who knows who else!
The hilarious part of this is in imagining an NSA contractor, a la Edward J. Snowden (I am sure there are a few thousand innocent-looking NSA operatives out there among us, listening), going home and throwing his jacket on the couch. He hugs his significant other (who is probably not jealous), and says, "hey honey, guess what I was doing today?" The significant other dutifully asks, and even though it might be a vioation of protocol. So the NSA twenty-something contractor says, "listening to that Sauerkraut-eating Angela." "Who?" asks the significant other, in a voice akin to that owl in the Geico ad, who is not that smart after all. "Angela. Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor. He was actually calling Hollande. Can you imagine?"
Of course, if I was Bundeskanzlerin Frau Angela Merkel, and this came to light, I would have a lot of "angst" and call that Obama and use something like wt and some other letters that don't bear writing (yes, it would most likely be an expletive). And then I would look at the overall US policy on wiretapping. You see, the superficial argument is that the wiretapping was initially meant to allow the United States to listen in on conversations from the Taliban (and other terrorist groups), their financiers, other enemies of the state, and perhaps the former Soviet Union. tongue in cheek, one wonders whether the Kanzlerin's life under the East German regime made her an obvious target, but where would that put Dilma, Enrique and Francois? Anyway, it is well known that the US did collect information on different parameters of communication, but one wanted to really believe that the NSA did so only for the "unsavoury characters". If I was Angela, I would more ticked that if the justification for collection of intelligence and listening in on foreign "Handys" was to thwart possible terrorist attacks, then that must imply that my name is somewhere on a no-fly list. And given the US-Mandela fiasco...yes, I would call Barack, and insist that that particular call be monitored too. Or just be cheeky and say something so random that it would require a response from the President and therefore prove that the US was listening.
Anyway; personally, I think it is safer for one to NOT be president/Prime Minister/Kanzlerin; it is unlikely that NSA listens to my phone calls (I wouldn't bet on that); that is why I speak in Kikuyu when I call my mother. If they ask a cryptologist to translate, it is very likely that the cryptologist is my cousin so you know at the next Barbecue I will get the 4-1-1.
It is one thing to spy on people (what will most people do anyway); it is quite another to spy on Heads of State. While the past has been checkered, I am not certain that Germany is actively, or complicitly, planning some terrorist attack against the United States. So it is not clear what, other than royally piss off the Germans, any spying on especially the Handy-Kanzlerin would do. Now, given that trade has become a new front in the war on mercantilism, it is understandable that the United States wants to know what others know (because as Dr. Serfaty would say, "it is not just what you know, it is who knows what you know that matters.") It is helpful to know the enemy's (wait, ally's) strategy, but if you are trying to conclude a trade deal, and they get to know that you know what they know, the it is very unlikely that a) the playing field is level and b) they are going to trust you there and thenceforth.
There is a saying that trust is like virginity: once it is broken, it is very difficult (if not impossible, unless you are in Egypt), to restore it. It is the notion that the US allowed the listening in to happen in the first place that is just mind-boggling. Beware, Presidents! Go down to the local 7-Eleven, get those disposable Net-10 phones, you know, the kind you use once and dump. Or even better, go back to the practice of using smoke signs! Finally - for the US to suggest that it is not, and will not in future, listen in on Angela's BFF gossip (who is her BFF anyway?) sounds suspiciously like NSA has been listening. I am practically chortling with glee, to see how this turns out.