It’s no secret that revelations about the NSA’s international surveillance operations in Europe have severely damaged America’s reputation in the region, particularly in Germany. President Obama addressed this issue at a press conference that was held in concert with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: “There’s no doubt that the Snowden revelations damaged impressions of Germans with respect to the US government and our intelligence cooperation.”
When Edward Snowden leaked a cornucopia of information about the NSA back in 2013 one of the files suggested that the agency had tapped Chancellor Merkel’s personal phone, perhaps without President Obama’s consent or knowledge. While a German investigation that was launched into the alleged act of espionage has yet to offer any proof that the bugging occurred, America’s credibility has already been damaged and relations between the two countries have become quite strained.
President Obama highlighted some of the steps that his administration has taken to assuage the innumerable concerns that the rest of the world has about the scope of the NSA’s international surveillance operations and how much authority the agency has outside of the US. Obama even referenced a report from last week that shows how the agency can access and store the communications data of foreigners, although many privacy advocates believe that the measures aren’t nearly enough.
“We’ve taken some unprecedented measures, for example, to make sure that our intelligence agencies treat non-US citizens in ways that have consistent with due process and their privacy concerns,” President Obama said. “Something that I put in a presidential order and has not been ever done, not only by our intelligence agencies, but I think by most intelligence agencies around the world. There are still going to be areas where we’ve got to work through these issues. We have to internally work throw some of these issues. They’re complicated. They’re difficult.”
However, President Obama also defended the importance of many of these surveillance operations and expressed his frustration with the growing skepticism in the international community over his administrations assurances that it tries to respect the civil liberties of foreigners.
“Occasionally I would like the German people to give us the benefit of the doubt, given our history, as opposed to assuming the worst, assuming that we have been consistently your strong partners and that we share a common set of values,” said President Obama. “And if we have that fundamental, underlying trust, there are going to be times where there are disagreements, and both sides may make mistakes, and there are going to be irritants like there are between friends, but the underlying foundation for the relationship remains sound.”