Though her Christian Democratic Union remains favored in upcoming German elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel is on the defensive over the “surveillance state” disclosures of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. One quirky turn came when a young German joked about visiting a U.S. spy base, Frank S. Grevil writes.
By Frank S. Grevil
The Snowden Affair — or Abhörskandal as the German media have dubbed it — is being played on several levels on several continents. In Germany, the scandal seemingly won’t end, in particular because of parliamentary elections seven weeks from now.
A 28-year-old German with a sense of humor was contacted by German federal police after inviting his Facebook friends tongue-in-cheek for a hike into a U.S. base area outside Darmstadt, Hesse, where the NSA’s Dagger Complex, responsible for a much of the disputed information gathering, is located.
As Spiegel Online reported, Daniel Bangert “described the outing as though it were a nature walk. He wrote on Facebook that its purpose was to undertake ‘joint research into the threatened habitat of NSA spies.’ He added: ‘If we are really lucky, we might actually see a real NSA spy with our own eyes.’ He suggested that those interested in coming should bring along their cameras and ‘flowers of all kinds to improve the appearance of the NSA spies’ habitat.’
“Perhaps not surprisingly, not many of his friends showed much interest in the venture. But the authorities did. Just four days after he posted the invitation, his mobile phone rang at 7:17 a.m. It was the police calling to talk about his Facebook post.
“Bangert’s doorbell rang at almost the exact same time. The police on the telephone told him to talk with the officers outside of his door. Bangert quickly put on a T-shirt — which had a picture of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on it along with the words ‘Team Edward’ — and answered the door. His neighbor was outside too so as not to miss the fun.
“The police wanted to know more about what exactly Bangert had in mind. ‘I couldn’t believe it. I thought: What? They are coming for such nonsense?’ Bangert says he answered all of the questions truthfully, saying that, yes, his intention was that of heading out to watch the spies. ‘The officers did smirk a bit,’ he notes.
“How, though, did the police get wind of Bangert’s planned ‘nature’ walk? A spokeswoman for the police in nearby Darmstadt told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the US Military Police had found the Facebook post and passed it along to German officials. The Military Police are responsible for security within the Dagger Complex, but outside the fence, it is the Germans who are in charge.”
For more on this curious cloak-and-dagger episode, go to: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/us-military-and-german-police-respond-to-facebook-post-about-nsa-walk-a-911451.html
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.