NSA’s Surveillance Operations the Envy of Former Stasi Commander. In East Germany, the Ministry
for State Security (known as the Stasi) became one of the most
aggressive domestic surveillance agencies in world history, acting
as “the shield and the sword” of the ruling Communist régime.
Despite (or because of) its history, many former members and
informants would prefer to
defend the organization and their roles in it to coming to
terms with its horrific nature. On the twentieth anniversary of the
fall of the Berlin Wall (in 2009), East Germany’s last leader told
former East German border guards he regretted failing to save the
country. But now, some former members of the Stasi can look
to America for inspiration that the spirit of their work is moving
forward. From a
McClatchy newspapers interview with Wolfgang Schmidt, a former
Stassi department head:
Peering out over the city [Berlin] that lived in fear
when the communist party ruled it, he pondered the magnitude of
domestic spying in the United States under the Obama
administration. A smile spread across his face.
“You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,” he
said, recalling the days when he was a lieutenant colonel in the
defunct communist country’s secret police, the Stasi.
In those days, his department was limited to tapping 40 phones at a
time, he recalled. Decide to spy on a new victim and an old one had
to be dropped, because of a lack of equipment. He finds
breathtaking the idea that the U.S. government receives daily
reports on the cellphone usage of millions of Americans and can
monitor the Internet traffic of millions more.
“So much information, on so many people,” he said.
But even Schmidt sees the design flaw in the NSA’s plan:
“It is the height of naïveté to think that once
collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the
nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect
the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect
their information in the first place.”
James Clapper might respond that
the NSA isn’t “collecting” that information because the
director of national intelligence doesn’t consider the gathered
data “collected” until it’s officially used, a semantic maneuver
any neo-Orwellian would consider doubleplusgood.
“This is how a society destroys itself,” one German activist who
was targeted by the Stasi told McClatchy, referring to the NSA’s
surveillance operations as “bullshit.” [Reason]