The scandal began with Edward Snowden revealing that the National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped and was monitoring phones of senior foreign politicians. Later it came to light that they had in fact, hacked the phone of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Not only is she the most powerful person in Europe, but she is also the most powerful woman on Earth. No surprise then, that she didn't take too lightly to having her phone hacked by the US.
The answers coming from the States, run mainly along the same line; why is Germany so surprised? Did they not expect that the CIA would be spying on them? Isn't this the norm? The US has stated that it has always had an interest in spying on Germany, ever since the Cold War. In today's world it perhaps even makes sense to spy on rival economies, no matter how close the political relationship between the two.
During an interview with “Deutsche Welle”, Karsten Voigt, a spokesperson for the SDP, said “I think the Americans are surprised that we're surprised. They assumed not only that we suspect they occasionally spy on us, but also that we spy on them. When I tell people in conversations in the US that we don't do that, they are completely surprised.”
The phone hacking scandal has unearthed the level of distrust that the US holds for Germany.
Angela Merkel expressed her opinion that “spying on allies... is a waste of energy”, sending the US the message that Germany indeed has nothing to hide from them, whilst also voicing her concern and anger towards the situation.
The NSA drama comes at a time when US-EU trade relationships are set to change courtesy of TTIP. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has been undergoing negotiations since summer 2013. The spying scandal will surely damage Germany's desire to enter closer relationships with the US. Some German politicians are even calling for TTIP to be scrapped altogether.
So, is Germany over-reacting? In my opinion, not at all. I feel that Germany is responding in precisely the right way. German citizens want to see that Merkel is strong and can stand up to the US. The EU needs a strong unifying voice to help prevent member states such as the UK from leaving. If Germany did nothing, just accepted the fact that they were being spied on, Europe would appear weak.