Obama To Germans Worried About NSA Surveillance: 'Hey, Trust Us!'

from the why? dept

It's often been said that trust is something that you earn -- or that you completely destroy in irredeemable ways. So it's a little bizarre to see President Obama trying to restore German trust in the US (and specifically over NSA surveillance) with a bogus "hey, trust us" line, when his own government has spent the past few years doing everything possible to undermine any residual trust. Yet here he is, in a joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking for "the benefit of the doubt."
There are going to still be areas where we’ve got to work through these issues. We have to internally work through some of these issues, because they’re complicated, they’re difficult. If we are trying to track a network that is planning to carry out attacks in New York or Berlin or Paris, and they are communicating primarily in cyberspace, and we have the capacity to stop an attack like that, but that requires us then being able to operate within that cyberspace, how do we make sure that we’re able to do that, carry out those functions, while still meeting our core principles of respecting the privacy of all our people?

And given Germany’s history, I recognize the sensitivities around this issue. What I would ask would be that the German people recognize that the United States has always been on the forefront of trying to promote civil liberties, that we have traditions of due process that we respect, that we have been a consistent partner of yours in the course of the last 70 years, and certainly the last 25 years, in reinforcing the values that we share. And so 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.

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.
Yes, I can understand why President Obama would want that, but that doesn't mean that he deserves it. This is the same president who allowed the surveillance to happen in the first place, who acted surprised when told it covered Angela Merkel, and who has done nothing more than paid lip service to the idea of reforming surveillance. This is the president who could have ended the bulk collection of phone records just by ordering the NSA to not seek a renewal for its authority, but has not done so.

This is the same President who has prosecuted more whistleblowers and journalists under the Espionage Act than all other Presidents combined (and then doubled). And this is the same administration who has fought off nearly every attempt at transparency over these actions.

So, I'm sorry, but it seems rather hilarious to just say "trust us" when no reason has been given for that trust. No effort has been made to show why the US is trustworthy on this matter. Yes, mistakes are made at times, and then it's quite right to recognize that not everyone is perfect. But to suggest that the US's surveillance actions over the past decade have all been a result of such slip ups doesn't hold any water at all. There is a consistent pattern of stretching the boundaries further and further and playing games with definitions in the law and ever increasing the powers of the surveillance state.

President Obama and the US government may have had the benefit of the doubt in the past, but on surveillance, at this point in time, it seems like it's going to need a hell of a lot more than "hey, we're the good guys!" to get people to trust them on that again.

Filed Under: angela merkel, barack obama, benefit of the doubt, germany, nsa, president obama, surveillance, trust


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 1:10am

    lemme fix that for ya

    What I would ask would be that the German people recognize that the United States has always been on the forefront of appearing to promote civil liberties, ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 10 Feb 2015 @ 1:18am

    Benefit of the doubt?

    And so occasionally I would like the German people to give us the benefit of the doubt, given our history, as opposed to assuming the worst.

    Uh, you got the benefit of the doubt. Nobody really imagined how fucked-up you are. The problem these days is not that nobody gives you the benefit of the doubt, but that due to people willing to put their life and future on the line for the sake of liberty (and this very much does not include you, Mr Obama, as you are doing your hardest of getting rid of people with a conscience), there is no doubt left that you are leading the most depraved and freedom-hating government in the history of the United States.

    There is absolutely no question about that. What you apparently want to convey instead is "trust us, we are crashing freedom and civil liberties for reasons we consider valid".

    And even that abomination of a mandate is a known lie since if there was any proof that any of that crap were effective at what its profiteurs claim it is for, it would have been paraded before us already.

    This whole crap is being pulled only to foster and profit the money and power greedy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Leit, 10 Feb 2015 @ 3:17am

      Re: Benefit of the doubt?

      Wonder if it'd make any impact on the next US election if a candidate had the stones to step up and say, "If elected I will bring Snowden back to the US as a free man and will free imprisoned whistleblowers".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 4:34am

        Re: Re: Benefit of the doubt?

        Yeah, but is it just me or does that sound like a distant echo of "I will close Guantanamo"...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        sigalrm (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 12:32pm

        Re: Re: Benefit of the doubt?

        It probably would make a difference in the election.

        Of course, it would also undoubtedly be either an outright lie, or summarily forgotten once the individual was in office. Snowden would have to be quite the idiot to put his faith in any such statement.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 3:53am

      Re: Benefit of the doubt?

      See also, the recent HSBC farce.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 1:33am

    Just another day of politics.
    This is the same president who keeps lying every single day. Dont worry, the Germans are not braindead unlike most of the US, they will not trust him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 10 Feb 2015 @ 1:38am

      Re:

      the Germans are not braindead unlike most of the US, they will not trust him.

      But the muppets in the German government are on his side of the paywall.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 1:43am

        Re: Re:

        Not for long, granny Merkel is slipping too. She should spend a little time on her own people instead of constantly sucking up to a certain religious group.
        On foreign visit, instead of meeting with the local german minority, or just mentioning the brutal attrocities commited against them after ww2, she spent most of her time talking about "religion".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 1:40am

    Oh dear President, we trust you and we 'd like to share more data. - BND

    This is a message to the police apparatus, not to the Government. It's just that in some places such apparatus is more merged with the Government and more prevalent than in others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 1:42am

    "We helped you in the past, that means we're still the good guys... right?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 2:15am

    And so occasionally I would like the German people to give us the benefit of the doubt, given our history...


    There's a problem here. It came in the form of some guy who's name you would probably recognize. I believe his name was Snowden or something like that. Ring a bell?

    The problem with your history, is that every time he came out and said something, talking heads in the government denied it, only in the next few days, having to eat their words on what the government was really doing. I'm sure in your busy schedule you've forgotten that little part.

    You give the benefit of the doubt to those who've earned it. Lying to your own citizens does exactly the opposite, especially when you've cranked it up to the lying stage and then left it there. The real issue here, is that when there was an opportunity to just come out and say, "Yeah that's true", the government and talking heads squandered that credibility.

    Now when it's needed, no one believes it. You reap what you sow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 10 Feb 2015 @ 2:37am

    No

    What I would ask would be that the German people recognize that the United States has always been on the forefront of trying to promote civil liberties, that we have traditions of due process that we respect...
    Sure Obe, but...

    What about the torture?
    What about the extra-judicial killing of your own citizens?
    What about your world-leading prison population?
    What about your permanent illegal wars of aggression?
    What about Guantanamo Bay?
    What about your rotten-to-the-core political system?
    What about your toppling of democracies and installing brutal repressive dictatorships?
    What about your Afghanistan opium production?
    What about CIA hacking and spying on their "overseers" with impunity?
    What about your spooks lying to everyone, including the legislative branch, with impunity?
    What about the GFC?

    USA may once have been a lesser evil. In terms of potential global empires maybe it still is. But that doesn't mean it is not evil. Or that it's criminality is tolerable. Go fuck yourself Obama.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 4:12am

      Re: No

      If only Senator Obama had been real and not a public face used to steal the election. He called out almost every one of those things and more, and yet now is expanding all of the above. We are literally being bound in red tape that seem inconsequential individually, but end up creating a Lilliputian rope that keep us from true freedom.
      Ask yourself how England treated the colonists and why they created this country in the first place and contrast it with out current situation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 10 Feb 2015 @ 2:45am

    "given our history"

    I presume Obama is talking about post-war Germany getting a as-good-as-can-be-imagined quasi-democratic restart after fascism.

    Given that history, it would behoove Germany to honor the achievements of America's WWII veterans and post-war politics and try their utmost to help rooting out fascism from the U.S.A. again, like apes taking turns delousing.

    However, they'll need allies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 3:24am

    And if we have that fundamental, underlying trust, there are going to be times where there are disagreements...
    At what point in his life did President Obama choose to start believing that untargeted mass surveillance of every country in the world, including his very own, was compatible with "fundamental, underlying trust"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 10 Feb 2015 @ 7:41am

      Re:

      t what point in his life did President Obama choose to start believing

      Uh, President Obama does not "believe" things, he says things. What he says is not supposed to have meaning but impact.

      Imagine him to be someone who will fart the Star-Spangled Banner with such intensity that everybody feels solemnly touched. That's basically what he stands for, just that he uses his mouth instead.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 3:58pm

        Re: Re:

        I didn't think of this at first, but I got lucky in my wording by saying "choose." The President may know that something is a lie, is an obfuscation, or is illogical, but he may still consciously decide to believe it to be true. This isn't "belief" in the sense that we normals may understand it; rather, it's the "belief" of politicians, method actors, and people with degrees in Marketing.

        Instead of a Nietzschian Will to Power we get a Kostanzian Will to Sincerity (as St. George said, "It's not a lie if you believe it"). And you're right, that gives words some real impact.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 10 Feb 2015 @ 4:03am

    Benefit of the doubt?

    There is no doubt, so `the benefit of the doubt' has no effect.
    Trust has to be earned and is easy to lose, (as mr. Masnick stated).
    The USA has a long way to go before `benefit of the doubt' comes into play.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 4:38am

    You are too hard on the President

    You are being too hard on the President. This is the man who let us know that Benghazi was due to a little viewed YouTube video. In fact, weeks after it was proven that it wasn't the case he went before the UN with that story.

    This is also the man who told us that if we liked our plan we could keep our plan. If we liked our doctor, we could keep our doctor. All the while knowing that a change was put in place in 2010 to ensure that we couldn't keep our plans and doctors.

    Oh wait, maybe you aren't being hard enough on the President!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 5:02am

    Really?

    If we are trying to track a network that is planning to carry out attacks [snip] and they are communicating primarily in cyberspace, [snip] how do we make sure that we’re able to do that, carry out those functions, while still meeting our core principles of respecting the privacy of all our people?
    Well, if you're "tracking a network" you must have some idea who you're tracking, so how about you put that evidence before an independent body (Oh, say a court) to see if there's good reason to go further. You know.... like you're supposed to do instead of hoovering up everything and sifting through it whenever you fancy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 5:21am

    Trust is given, not demanded or asked for

    If someone is truly trustworthy, then their actions will make this clear. They won't have to say a thing for people to know that they can be trusted.

    The only people who say 'Trust me', or try and convince others to trust them, are those that should not, ever, be trusted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 4:09pm

      Re: Trust is given, not demanded or asked for

      If movies have taught me anything, the best that can be hoped for when you hear the phrase "trust me" is that the cyborg will shoot people in the knees instead of killing them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 5:28am

    If trust were...

    If trust were money, the US Government would be a college student with crippling debt.

    If trust were alcohol, the US Government would be the violent drunk alcoholic.

    If trust were drugs, the US Government would be the addict that could quit whenever he wanted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 5:38am

    Americans dont trust the American government or any of the security forces! why the hell would another country do any different??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    What about a Peace Treaty, 10 Feb 2015 @ 6:26am

    What about a Peace Treaty

    How about a Peace Treaty?
    -with a clear definition of the borders
    -a clear time frame on removing the Alied troops from Germany
    -let the Germans write their own constitution by themselves?

    that could be a good start to get some trust!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 10 Feb 2015 @ 7:44am

      Re: What about a Peace Treaty

      -let the Germans write their own constitution by themselves?

      Actually, just permitting them to heed the existing one would be a big step.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    If you like your German privacy..., 10 Feb 2015 @ 6:32am

    If you like your German privacy...

    "If you like your German privacy, you can keep it. Period"
    Barack Hussein Obama

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 7:21am

    How about thinking outside the box obama, so that we have no NEED for bigger and bigger government.........what about the causes, what about the MEANINGFUL peace discussions, reperations to jail those responsible who are to big to jail, to show sincerity........ALOT less violent, a willingness to change, NOT BIGGER government, and you MIGHT, ....might, START earning the trust i vaguelly once remembered i had in you when you were saying that you'd stop the wars when you were trying to win the presidency

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 7:27am

    "there are going to be times where there are disagreements, and both sides may make mistakes,"

    Offcourse there will be, if governments keep purposefully creating the the environment for mistakes and disagreements to flourish........but i guess individual right is a foreign concept to those who want to band together to rule over others

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 7:28am

    Once more, with feeling

    Never trust anyone who says "trust me."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 7:42am

      Re: Once more, with feeling

      Speaking of which, did you ever have a chance to read this? I only ask because i took a few days before i had time to write and post it, and i wasn't sure if you had moved on by then and didn't see it or if you saw it and just didn't think it was worth a reply.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 8:07am

    The Good Guys

    The good guys are those that are not doing surveillance. The good guys don't murder people with drones based on the above surveillance data. The good guys don't torture prisoners. And so on..

    "good" is what does "good", and not what asserts its "good intentions".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 8:14am

    "when his own government has spent the past few years doing everything possible to undermine any residual trust"

    That's not entirely true. The US government has not done itself any favours, but if they really wanted to eliminate trust, there are still things they need to do:

    # Publish full text copies of every embarrassing thing they have captured, withholding only the minimum necessary to keep secret programs and capabilities that we don't know about yet
    # Issue sweeping presidential pardons to NSA and their ilk, permanently forgiving any potential crimes they might have committed, so that they can never be held accountable even by a future administration
    # Publicly confirm that they believe foreigners have no right to privacy of any kind
    # Publicly confirm that they believe anything intercepted outside US borders counts as foreign, even if analysts later determine conclusively that it was a US citizen -> US citizen communication
    # Publicly confirm that they believe parallel construction is perfectly legitimate
    # Publicly confirm that they believe NSA surveillance can and should be routinely used for regular police work

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:11am

      Re: "when his own government has spent the past few years doing everything possible to undermine any residual trust"

      Honestly? If they did all of those things, I wouldn't trust them any less. Mostly because that's not really possible at this point.

      However, if they did all of those things, my level of respect would take a tick upwards, because at least they'd finally be exhibiting some amount of honesty.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 10 Feb 2015 @ 8:23am

    This question is only hard to those who frequently violate civil liberties

    If we are trying to track a network that is planning to carry out attacks in New York or Berlin or Paris, and they are communicating primarily in cyberspace, and we have the capacity to stop an attack like that, but that requires us then being able to operate within that cyberspace, how do we make sure that we’re able to do that, carry out those functions, while still meeting our core principles of respecting the privacy of all our people?
    Oh, I don't know, maybe
    1. Alert the security services of the relevant country.
    2. Have them get a warrant and bust the terrorists.
    Only people who don't think in terms of civil liberties would have trouble with this. The law is pretty obvious as to how to do it. If you can't follow it, then the terrorists have already won.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:05am

      Re: This question is only hard to those who frequently violate civil liberties

      you are a potential domestic terrorist if you have over 7 days of food in your home.

      I am fairly certain having that as a requirement for what makes a person a suspected terrorist in America by those in charge invalidates any validity in what they say and do to combat terrorism.

      Since that means 99% of Americans are viewed as potential domestic terrorists under that DHS guideline.

      The terrorists won a while back. They are just not the ones that flew the planes into the towers. Instead they are the ones benefitting from the culture of fear to enrich themselves

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:13am

        Re: Re: This question is only hard to those who frequently violate civil liberties

        Yeah, that's a funny one! The only people I've ever known that don't routinely have at least a week's worth of food in their kitchen are the very poor.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          sigalrm (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 12:38pm

          Re: Re: Re: This question is only hard to those who frequently violate civil liberties

          The only people I've ever known that don't routinely have at least a week's worth of food in their kitchen are the very poor.


          That's ok. I'm sure folks folks too poor to keep a weeks worth of food in their house all meet one of the other criteria for inclusion on the "potential terrorist" list.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:01am

    Be nice if we could trust Obama, but all he does is lie every time he opens his mouth.

    Telling germans want they want to hear probably won't work as they are not as blind as some people to what is happening.

    It's not like they had an absolute leader in the last century that told them what they wanted to hear, with no negative side effects from that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MarcAnthony (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:12am

    Doubt of the benefit

    German people should be incredulously doubting the benefit of all this spying and any cooperation in same. If there were legitimacy to the claim that we’ve got to "work through" these "complicated issues," they would have asked beforehand and not spied on people that pose no threat, including their own citizens. The emotional appeal that the US has always respected civil rights and has a tradition of due process is nothing less than propaganda that should indicate to you that they have no plans to alter their behavior.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kevin, 10 Feb 2015 @ 12:47pm

    Petrobrazil

    1...NSA has already been caught in the Petrol Brazil affair in Brazil , hacking the local compention to make sure an american company wins the oil contract. The Brazilian government kicked them out and refuses to let them bid on any contract they have any control over.

    2...NSA has already been caught planting bugs in phones (formally) destined for the canadian intelligence agency. Very quietly , all sorts of security contracts for USA companies were cancelled , or at least never engaged in, and Canada is currently building it's own email system that does not connect to the USA in any fashion , and engages no USA contractors.

    3...NSA has already been caught putting bugs into american routers destined for over seas clients. Needless to say , no one over seas wants american routers any more.

    4...I talk to americans (online on various games , SWTOR , WOW , etc) and they all give me the same rsponse to all of this. Everyone does this. Why should we stop ?

    You would think that , after being caught, they would slow down or be apologetic. Nope. They are simply increasing their activities as fast as they can.

    Which means when my current phone dies, I don't want an iPHone, or a google android, or anything american.
    And when my current computer dies, Windows will be the last choice for an operating system. Well, maybe apple will be the last choice. American operating systems will certainly monopolize the top of the least wanted list.

    If my own government spies on me , I can vote them out of office. If an american spies on me , they dont' give a rats behind which way I vote, do they ?

    I want nothing american.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 12:59pm

      If wrong then to set right...

      I want nothing American...and I'm in America.

      This is pretty much the FUBAR situation that I predicted when the Snowden revelations came out. Frankly I predicted a smaller scale of it after ICE arrested Dotcom in New Zealand.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Amped up with trust., 10 Feb 2015 @ 7:02pm

    Trust

    Our govt. is hopelessly untrustworthy. Yet, I'll trust any government official who states something like, "The weather is really nice today," if and only if I can stick my head out the door to be sure there aren't any tornadoes headed my way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 7:34am

    I spoke to the German government (the Bundestag and the Bundesrat) to find out their response to Obama, which was, "The last time we trusted those American pig-dogs (schweinhunds), they abducted our scientists and forced them to create bombs that they then threatened to use against us. Never again!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan G Difino, 11 Feb 2015 @ 8:11am

    Wars By Proxy

    Why all of a sudden we are hearing 20,000 fighters rushing to aid islamist terrorists? We saw Putin with Egyptian leader on International news. There is Washington DC WH possibly aiding Ukraine with Defensive Lethal weaponry.

    What do we have here? Wars by proxy?

    Also, whenever we can get one of our people back in exchange for some motherfucking asshole, JUST FUCKING DO IT.

    Fuck the Goddamned chickenshit precedent you fucknuts are suggesting it sets.

    FUCK

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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