Europe was shocked by the news that America’s National Security Agency and Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ were spying on European politicians and citizens, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
The leaks about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone being tapped by the Americans emerged in October 2013 from former CIA contractor Edward Snowden. She made the now-famous remark that, ‘Spying between friends, that's just not done’.
European governments also protested, but more because the Americans and British were spying on them rather than the intrusion into the private lives of their citizens which put everybody's privacy, and the entire population, under suspicion.
The excitement faded because of a perception of growing terrorist threats from ISIS, jihadism and the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris in January 2015, when 17 people died in three days of carnage by two brothers supporting al-Qaeda.
People became fearful for their security and less concerned about ‘big brother’ watching over them.
Now it has been revealed that the BND - Germany’s national intelligence agency which is directly controlled by the Chancellor’s office - worked as agents for America’s NSA spying on many European ‘friends’. These included major European corporations, the French presidency, the European Commission and the Austrian government.
It is believed that the illegal surveillance also included private people and businesses and was directed without specific intelligence and without the authority or orders of a judge.
Aviation giant Airbus and the Austrian government are filing criminal complaints over the spying allegations and are seeking more information.
The German Chancellor, responsible for the BND, is now being asked to reveal details with IP addresses, internet search items and mobile phone numbers. She has refused to do so unless authorised by the US. So much for Germany’s sovereignty.
It is pretty normal for governments to spy on each other, but Germany's BND spying on its European partners while acting as agents of the Americans could be considered quite audacious. The Chancellor's anger at having her phone tapped now looks pretty hypocritical.
This could be seen as an amusing farce, providing excitement to the media and public entertainment. But there is another, highly dangerous, side of it.
Spying on your country’s businesses and citizens is a total breach of constitutional rights, freedom and privacy. It ignores the presumption of innocence without which the rule of law becomes an illusion. These controls are typical of totalitarian regimes.
France voted for a new law this week which gives its intelligence agencies extended controls over everyone and is seen as a dangerous extension of mass surveillance. This law is said to prevent further Islamist attacks in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders.
The tendency to control citizens appears to be a line the G20 group of countries is taking. The only point where G20 leaders can agree is further control. Several of these countries are not ‘free democracies’ or not democracies at all.
Europe and the US are now abandoning the fundamental principles of individual freedom and democracies based on the rule of law. Control freaks are assuming power as forecast by George Orwell.
Citizens are becoming subjects and bound to comply. This way is goodbye to the rule of law, individual freedom and democracy.