Have we forgotten their history?
Amid all the hoopla over tapping the German Prime Minister’s personal cell phone, some fundamental issues have been forgotten. Yes, many friendly governments spy on one another, and yes, the President’s national security duties are primary. We can’t just unilaterally disarm, and many nations are more jealous than offended by the NSA’s activities.
But who we spy on and how we gather that data matters. Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany, where one in every seven citizens was a Stasi informant. Nothing was inviolate. When Germany reunified, the Stasi tried to destroy so many files that their shredders broke down. They still ended up with over 16 thousand sacks of scraps.
So when Frau Merkel says that such surveillance represents a grave breach of trust, believe it. She’s not going to be mollified by an “everybody does it” excuse. If Washington wants Germany to be an enthusiastic partner, it had better get busy rebuilding that relationship.
Don’t debate John McCain on torture, and don’t tap a former East German’s phone. They may forgive you, but they won’t forget.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer