German Minister Calls Security A 'Super Fundamental Right' That Outranks Privacy; German Press Call Him 'Idiot In Charge'

from the going-down dept

One of the striking features of the Snowden story is that there has been no serious attempt to deny the main claims about massive, global spying. Instead, the fall-back position has become: well, yeah, maybe we did some of that, but look how many lives were saved as a result. For example, the day after the first leaks appeared, it was suggested that PRISM was responsible for stopping a plot to bomb the NYC subways. However, further investigation showed that probably wasn’t the case.

Now it seems that Germany is using the same tactic in an attempt to ward off growing domestic criticism — and encountering the same problem with that attempt to re-frame the narrative, as the Stars and Stripes site reports:

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich is backing off his earlier assertion that the Obama administration’s NSA monitoring of Internet accounts had prevented five terror attacks in Germany, raising questions about other claims concerning the value of the massive monitoring programs revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The same article quotes a particularly ridiculous comment made by the same Minister:

Defending NSA practices, Friedrich noted that security is a “super fundamental right.” As such it outranks fundamental rights such as privacy. German newspapers were scathing in their assessment, calling Friedrich the “idiot in charge.”

As that indicates, at least some in the European press are getting tired of mindless defenses of the spying program — as well as associated claims about how many lives it has saved.

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Comments on “German Minister Calls Security A 'Super Fundamental Right' That Outranks Privacy; German Press Call Him 'Idiot In Charge'”

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Richard (profile) says:

Of Course

Of course lives are only more important that other human rights in the West. In other parts of the world eg Iraq, they work to quite a different equation. How many lives have been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan in the cause of “freedom”.

The reality is that these people engage in doublethink on these issues – and the real imperative is the political need to be seen to be doing somnething (and by the way to provide business for all the companies that make money out of politcians “doing something”).

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Of Course

No, not really, notice how freeing people from dictatorships only seems to matter when those dictatorships aren’t friendly or useful.

For example the US government are dancing around like mancies to avoid calling what has happened in Egypt a coup because a lot of the bribes… sorry I mean aid… can’t legally be sent if it is.

The life lost was never about ‘freedom’ that was just a nice coat of paint.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Of Course

“Yes but my point is that it’s clearly been obvious that “in the name of freedom” has largely meant “in the name of our security””

actually, i’m sure you know it goes a step beyond that: we’re fighting over there, so the 1% can make obscene profits over here…

really and truly, this has little/nothing to do with ‘security’ per se, but EVERYTHING to do with protecting the ‘right’ of ‘our’ (actually, NOBODY’S) transnational korporations to generate profits unchallenged by gummints or peoples…

yeah, there are a few twue bewievers who do this crap out of a misplaced, misguided ‘patriotism’, but most are simply fools and tools being led by the nose to peddle this crapola, and not a small percentage who are simply con men and sociopaths taking advantage of the ‘security’ gravy train…

they are protecting the ‘security’ of the korporadoes, NOT US 99%…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Of Course

Of course lives are only more important that other human rights in the West.

Only recently and only since people have become complacent about their real freedoms…

I seem to remember only a couple of centuries ago, some minor western colony of the British Empire yawking on about how the tiddly little rights like speech and privacy were more important than living – some bloke named Henry even had a nifty catchphrase for it…

Oh and around the middle of this century I seem to remember a bunch of western countries getting rather miffed for several years because it was decided that being able to choose not to do funny salutes at a painter with a daft moustache was rather more important than quite a lot of lives…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I dunno about Germany, but, generally, European countries take privacy very seriously. Saying that security is more important than privacy is enough to make your average European cringe, especially when said average European remembers names like Salazar, Franco, Mussolini or Hitler.

Europeans know the price of overzealous “security”. We spent decades fighting against it.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Saying that security is more important than privacy is enough to make your average European cringe

It makes lots of Americans cringe, too.

In the US, “rights” are about what the government is prohibited from doing. Security is not a “right” — it’s the job of the government, and as such does not trump any rights at all.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C. S. Lewis

I’d much rather have freedom than faux-security.

Anonymous Coward says:

almost none of the countries involved in this disgraceful example of government infringement of citizens rights have or are going to stop the practice anyway. they may well say they are going to, there may well be new legislation that prevents it from happening either to the degree when it became public knowledge or indeed at all. but if anyone actually thinks that it is going to stop the spying, you are in cloud cuckoo land. governments have gotten away with doing exactly as they please for far too long and they aint gonna stop it now!! the majority of citizens just shrug and turn to some other page or task. they think even now that they are not included in any of this and will continue to have that view until such time as they get hauled into some official building, accused of some outrageous crime and threatened with a gazillion dollar fines and lifetimes in jail. this is just what the governments want, so if anyone does fight back, no one else takes any notice, until it involves them personally and it is too late to stop it! half a brain knows we’re in the shit! the world is becoming a police world, with freedoms and privacies and all other things the people expect to have being taken away. now look at which party is in government in the majority of the countries following this line and you’ll find another similarity!!

PopeRatzo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Stars and Stripes has done a good deal of original reporting, including stories critical of the government and of the military. According to Wikipedia, “Unique among the many military publications, Stars and Stripes operates as a First Amendment newspaper”.

So, I guess until the corporate/intelligence apparatus decides that the First Amendment is no longer good for profits, Stars and Stripes gets to operate independently. Since we’ve already seen a couple of the amendments in the Bill of Rights suspended, that might happen sooner rather than later.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mr. Friedrich was told to say these things in his audience with his superiors in the US. Then he dutifully said them. He didn’t mix up the words or forget any of his talking points. His delivery was at least okay-ish. And still, everybody is mad at him now and calls him names. How is that fair? He can only be as good as the lines given to him.

Peter Gerdes (profile) says:

He's Right

It’s not a useful practical heuristic but in a way totally true. Freedom is of no use whatsoever to a worldwide cemetery. The issue is just how much risk of death should be traded for how much violation of other rights and this is a very bad way to frame that question.

For instance, in the modern world there are almost certainly private individuals owning land w/ uranium ore and possessing (via hiring) the rarified but no longer truly heroic expertize to detonate the device. However, there are good reasons we don’t have respected political documents and snappy phrases reminding us to invade privacy and check up on neighbors. We tend to overdo that anyway and need the opposite warning.


Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Most Europeans

Tend to be more sensitive to the whole “privacy vs. security” issue than Americans for various reasons (especially Eastern Europe). Granted, Americans by default are sensitive to it, but they’re also constantly told that “we’re doing this to protect you!”, which for anyone who has a sliver of faith in the government, is somewhat reassuring.

That and 9/11 blew up what was a national landmark (WTO), and as far as I know, nothing on that level of terrorism has happened over in Europe yet (it’d be the equivalent of someone blowing up Buckingham Palace), which is why Europeans (especially Germans) are more aware of the privacy vs. security problem than Americans today.

Well, that and fucking reality TV.

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