Germans Find Little Comfort in Obama's Assurances Over NSA Program

The World

Protestors wearing Guy Fawkes masks participate in a demonstration next to the television tower against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in Berlin February 25, 2012. Protesters fear that ACTA, which aims to cut trademark theft and other online piracy, will curtail freedom of expression, curb their freedom to download movies and music for free and encourage Internet surveillance. The banner reads: 'Surveillance Society.' REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz (GERMANY - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR2YF2J


"It was really a shock. A big, big shock." That's how University of Muenster telecommunications law professor Thomas Hoeren describes the German reaction to the recent NSA spying revelations. "During the Nazi regime, there was a really big collection of personal data, so Germans hate big governments collecting a lot of data." And they aren't afraid to show it. The photo above was taken during a recent German protest against ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The sign reads: "Abolish the Surveillance State." And Germans, Hoeren says, find little comfort in President Obama's recent assurances that "no one is listening to your telephone calls." It's a sentiment shared among many in the European Union. In fact, the European Parliament met in emergency session Tuesday to discuss the NSA data snooping program, known as PRISM. After the session, Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini told the BBC: "If it wasn't so sad I would have laughed last Friday when Obama said, 'No worries people, this is only for foreigners, not for Americans.'" "The problem is this," Sargentini continued. "The Fourth Amendment that protects American citizens' privacy does not fly for us Europeans. If you think your data has been used in the wrong way in the US, you cannot go to court and fight it." The NSA's surveillance program is sure to be a topic of conversation when President Obama travels to Berlin next week for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And he's likely to get a much colder reception from the German public than during his previous visit nearly five years ago. "The last time he was here, we saw him as a kind of hero. We loved him," says Thomas Hoeren. "But now he will get a lot of criticism, and people protesting him."