As the U.S. media turns on NSA leaker Edward Snowden – and as many Americans say they’re happy to trade some privacy for more security – samples of public opinion abroad are more sympathetic. An online poll by a major German daily reflects that sentiment, writes ex-Danish intelligence analyst Frank S. Grevil.
By Frank S. Grevil
The German tabloid Bild with a circulation of 2.5 million is currently conducting a poll on its homepage, which shows that about 85 percent consider Edward Snowden a hero, as opposed to 15 percent considering him a scoundrel. So far, more than 80,000 people have voted, and even if such online polls should be cited with caution – since they are unscientific and can be distorted by the intensity of sentiment on one side – this one seems indicative of broad support for Snowden in Germany.
However, a similar poll made by the Danish tabloid B.T. several days ago showed a slight majority against Snowden as a hero. As a Dane, I’m not particularly proud of that.
It took Germany a great many years to rid itself of old-school blind loyalty to the authorities. Thus, not until 1973 were the conspirators behind the failed bomb attack against Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944, deemed to be patriots by a German court, so that their widows and orphans could receive a state pension.
By contrast, the widow of fanatical Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich received a state pension with only a minimum of red tape, and other thousands of Germans responsible for the Holocaust went unscathed by the trials conducted first by the Allies and subsequently by the German state.
But the new Germany, which includes the former East Germany where spying on citizens was common, seems to have a totally different view on people who break a formal oath to shed light on governments violating fundamental human rights. Thus, despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rejection of asylum for Snowden, there appears to be broad German admiration for the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor now stuck in a Moscow airport.
Snowden sacrificed a comfortable, upper-middle-class life to alert Americans and the world about the prevalence of electronic eavesdropping by the U.S. government’s NSA.
Being a former intelligence analyst, I recognize the need for secret information gathering, but the U.S. obviously went too far, allowing or even instructing the NSA to spy on nearly everyone, everywhere. We’ve got to ask ourselves if this is the way we want to be protected from terrorism?
Frank S. Grevil is a former intelligence analyst with FE, the Danish equivalent of the CIA and NSA. In 2004, Grevil disclosed documents showing that the then Danish Prime Minister (and NATO general secretary since 2009) Anders Fogh Rasmussen tricked the Danish parliament into voting for Denmark to join the U.S.-led coalition invading Iraq in March 2003. For the disclosure, Gervil was sentenced to four months imprisonment which he served in 2008. Grevil now lives in Germany. In January 2009, he was given the annual Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence.