BERLIN -- The breach in U.S.-German relations seemed likely to widen after a joint German newspaper and television investigation titled “Secret War” reported that American intelligence and military use this nation for “tapping, code cracking, recruiting informants, observing suspects, kidnapping and abducting foreign enemies.”
What’s more, the reports added: “The Germans have known all that for years.”
The reports this past week come at a time when German-U.S. relations have been taking a beating. In June, documents released by former National Security Agency consultant Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has spied on the electronic communications of tens of millions of Germans. In October, the news broke that the NSA had even been tapping the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for years.
The resulting freefall in American popularity was tracked by a poll by national German public television station ARD. That poll showed that only 35 percent of Germans still see the United States as a good partner, down from 49 percent in July. The poll also found that 61 percent of Germans now see the United States as an untrustworthy partner and that 60 percent of Germans consider Snowden – who has been called a traitor by American officials – to be a hero.
President Barack Obama’s star has fallen fast. In April 2010, 88 percent of Germans said they liked his politics; the new poll put that number at 43 percent.
The news organizations — the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and German public television station NDR, two of Germany’s most respected — say that the eight reports they published Friday were just the first of many that will come in the next few weeks.
A U.S. Embassy statement bluntly dismissed the reports.
“The article in today’s Sueddeutscher (sic) Zeitung, ‘The Secret War: Germany and the Role of America,’ is full of half-truths, speculation and innuendo,” the statement begins.
It goes on to note: “For many decades there have indeed been military facilities in Germany for our mutual security under Status of Forces Agreements, but the fact that they are closed to the public in no way implies that illegal activities are being organized there.”
The newspaper was unchastened: “The American Embassy also comments and rejects the reports as innuendo. They are stating the United States `are not kidnapping and torturing on principle.’ This is a daring claim. Only seven months ago a commission made up of Democrats and Republicans called it ‘undeniable’ that the United States tortured inmates following the terror attacks of 2001.
“Even President Barack Obama said in 2009 that the American practice of waterboarding was torture.”