American Voices Abroad – Berlin

March, 2019

Berlin -- American Voices Abroad (AVA) met last evening in a Schöneberg cafe to hear speaker Isabella Greif talk about her new book The Unresolved NSU Complex. She attended the trial of five German neo-Nazis that ended in July 2018. What is unresolved is the failure of German law enforcement and domestic intelligence to understand home-grown terrorism.

On the subject of intelligence gathering, I briefly discussed a new book by Danielle Jaussaud, The Dilsberg Engagement: Love, Dissent and Reprisals, and recommended it enthusiastically to all AVA members. It is not only a good read, but there is a historical connection between AVA and the author's account of illegal U.S. Army spying on both Germans and Americans in Germany in 1973.

The Dilsberg Engagement recounts the story of the author and her boyfriend Mike McDougal, an Army military intelligence specialist stationed in Kaiserslautern. He discovers illegal surveillance activities including wiretaps and consults an American attorney in Heidelberg about what to do. They decide their best option is to make the discovery public in the biggest possible way. They capture headlines in all the major U.S. and German newspapers that summer.

At the same time, an Army officer in Berlin is troubled by his assignment to spy on American civilians in Berlin who are engaged in perfectly legal activities, like registering U.S. voters and signing petitions. He contacts his U.S. Senator, Lowell Weicker, who takes the issue to the Senate Watergate Committee, which is investigating the president, Richard Nixon. The Americans in Berlin under surveillance, members of the AVA's predecessor organization, then sue the U.S. Department of Defense and eventually win a monetary judgment and set a precedent against the U.S. government's spying on Americans abroad.

The identity of the Berlin whistleblower has never been revealed and is unknown to this day. The Kaiserslautern soldier, Mike McDougal, died in 2010. His story, and that of Danielle Jaussaud, who was very much a part of it, should not be forgotten. They were heroic in how they exposed illegal activities and turned the tables on the Army so that they became the better defenders of American values and the rule of law. The Army wanted to court-martial McDougal, but in the end knew better than to try. McDougal left the Army with an honorable discharge.

The story is inspiring. I was deeply affected last evening taking the book to the AVA meeting. Mike McDougal is gone, but his name and his story and his spirit were present once again in Germany. Thank you, Danielle Jaussaud, for writing an engaging, funny and sad, remarkable book.