I just want to give you some quotes from the recent days to put a little perspective on the NSA-case. First:
“The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair.”
“International law is often customary law. Unfortunately, it is also caused by bad habits. Thus, the United States can rely on the fact that they always acted like this: in search of terrorists, they march through the legal systems of other countries to kill their enemies with drones to hunt suspects to kidnap – and for global dragnet spying on the records of millions of citizens. Allowed to do that? In fact, the U.S. has ruffled international law at least since Nine-Eleven in its favor, international courts and international law experts have often watched the habits of the world power powerless with horror. The attempt to counter the aggressive American security policy with the national legal system of the countries concerned seems futile. That the millionfold invasion of privacy of citizens criminal this side of the Atlantic, is a matter of German law and a matter for the attorney general, does not concern the White House.”
“This noble purpose, to save lives in Germany, justifies at least, that we work together with our American friends and partners to prevent terrorists, criminals to harm our citizens. “But proportionality must always be complied with, the Minister said when asked whether the end justifies the means.”
The first quote is from Snowden, the second from Thomas Darnstädt from Spiegel Online, the third from Hans-Peter Friedrich (German Minister).
Breaking humanitarian, international and national (both US and German laws) is a noble purpose. This worldview is a direct attack on the rule of law and every democratic principle both nations, the USA and the Federal Republic of Germany stand for and which principles this Minister swore to protect by his oath. The oath for state officials within the Grundgesetz states:
“I swear that I will dedicate my efforts to the well-being of the German people, promote their welfare, protect them from harm, uphold and defend the Basic Law and the laws of the Federation, perform my duties conscientiously, and do justice to all. So help me God.”
Did I mention that the Minister of the Interior is also the Minister for privacy rights? No? My bad. This sheds a terrible light on the democratic understanding of this Minister. Illegal means justify vague ends. Terrorism is the new wild card to threaten democracy and the rule of law, even international law. By using this rhetoric he puts himself in a line with several authoritarian Regimes: “don’t worry, we just want to protect you. Surveillance increases your security is only for your own good, we are still the good guys and would never harm you, right?” This rhetoric is used all over the world the attack freedom of speech and other democratic principles. Democracy however, was designed to be critical. Democracy is a system of institutionalized mistrust of the powerful. That is why we have a division of power and that is why we have democratic checks and balances. Montesquieu and others argued, that the democratic citizen should always be enlightened and a critical thinker and not immature. What Friedrich wants is the citizen to be immature, to trust the government officials (you know, those who shredder important documents before federal investigations) no matter what. This is highly undemocratic behavior and not worthy for a politician in the 21st century…