Under-reported Surveillance Issues

December, 2013

Berlin -- German press coverage of NSA surveillance issues differs from U.S. press coverage in two ways that deserve more attention.

One issue is the disgust of the German government about not only the NSA's spying on its top leaders, but the failure to keep it secret. German regard for the competence of the NSA is low. This will surely affect future bilateral relations where trust and cooperation are necessary.

The other issue is U.S. spying that is related to trade, not terrorism. The upcoming trade talks, according to the German press, are threatened by the U.S. government's deployment of its vast counter-terrorism spying network in the service of dubious American corporate trade advantages.

A prime example is the all-out U.S. push -- including surveillance of foreign trade offices -- to break the resistance of European governments to deal in genetically modified crops. This comes at a time when enthusiasm for GMOs is in retreat in many scientific quarters. Experience is showing that GMOs have been oversold; evolution is overcoming gene modifications; many farmers are now using more toxins for pest control than before; neonicotinoids produced by GMOs are threatening crop pollinators and thus the viability of the whole food chain.

These two issues -- much under-reported in the U.S. press -- are driving otherwise strong trans-Atlantic allies apart. The U.S. government will have to deal with both of them.