Obama administration seems ‘almost helpless’ in face of NSA scandal

Der Spiegel reports: German diplomats have traveled to Washington to express anger over surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone — but they have yet to make headway. The Obama administration seems “almost helpless” in the face of continued leaks, says one diplomat.

Both groups sit together in a White House conference room for about 90 minutes. On one side are a half a dozen members of the European Parliament. Facing them is an equally-sized American delegation, including Karen Donfried, senior director for European affairs in the National Security Council (NSC) and a fluent German speaker.

The agenda is full of issues that have become day-to-day business in trans-Atlantic relations: the scandal surrounding US monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, NSA espionage and accusations of spying. They’re all uncomfortable topics that diplomats of allied nations usually prefer to keep quiet about. But shortly before the meeting’s end, the Americans appear to look inward. How should we proceed, they ask contemplatively.

“They seemed almost helpless, as if they’d become obsessed,” says Jan Philipp Albrecht, a Green Party MEP and one of the participants in the meeting. “The US government representatives honestly looked like they didn’t know what to do. And they left no room for doubt that more spying revelations are to be expected.” The odd exchange is an accurate reflection of the mood in Washington. [Continue reading…]

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