Hillary Clinton Thinks Angela Merkel Is The Greatest, But Merkel's Not Too Happy With The U.S.
On Sunday, former U.S. Secretary of State and potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Angela Merkel the "greatest leader in Europe" during her trip to Berlin, a heartwarming piece of praise from one vaunted female politician to another, and a reflection of just how much esteem Merkel holds in international circles. Unfortunately, Clinton's words stood in stark contrast to recent news of the U.S. and Germany's tense relations over NSA spying.
It was already known that the United States had spied on Merkel and her aides, and the allegations deepened last Wednesday when a German intelligence agent was arrested on suspicion of being a U.S. spy. Specifically, it's alleged that he sent back sensitive documents relating to Germany's own investigation of the NSA.
As you might expect, this news has sent many in Germany into a fury, but it's also a feeling they've got to be pretty familiar with by now — considering the U.S. and Germany are ostensibly tight allies, the level of surveillance the NSA has subjected top-level German officials to is pretty shocking.
Late last year, amid the flood of revelations about the U.S. agency leaked by Edward Snowden, it was revealed that Merkel's personal cellphone had been tapped. This caused a predictable uproar, and the U.S. was forced to offer a tepid response — that they weren't tapping her phone presently, and would not in the future, but wouldn't say if they ever had — before reportedly continuing to tap the phones of other high-ranking officials.
Say what you will about former President George W. Bush's infamously awkward, inappropriate attempt to give Merkel a shoulder massage at the 2006 G8 summit, but at least she was able to shrug his offending hands away in an instant. At this point, worrying that the U.S. government might be spying on she personally and her government isn't paranoia, it's practically part of the job description.
To be clear, the question of whether the 31-year-old German intelligence employee arrested last week actually did what he's accused of is unclear. The Guardian reports that German intelligence claims the man admitted to passing some documents to the United States. But at this juncture, the head of the inquiry panel investigating the matter, Patrick Sensburg, says he doesn't have evidence that the man spied on Germany's investigation of the NSA.
As he told German public radio Saturday, as quoted by Deutsche Welle:
At this time, I can say that I don't have any information that the NSA committee's own documents were spied on. I would be very careful about making hasty conclusions about whether the Americans were spying here or whether perhaps other states were spying.
It's also true, however, that the U.S. already got caught for spying on Merkel once, issued a carefully-worded excuse, then reportedly drove a truck through a gap the excuse left open. That's the thing about spying, state secrecy and underhanded dealings: the second you make it clear you'll lie and go behind the back even of an important ally, it gets awfully hard to mend fences, and damn near impossible to mend true trust.
Though, who knows — if Hillary Clinton is indeed the president three years from now, maybe she could let her favorite leader in all of Europe get to sleep a little easier at night?