The recent revelations by Edward Snowden of the National Security Agency's massive surveillance program in Europe has created a furor overseas, especially in Germany, where it is alleged that the NSA went so far as to listen in on the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In this audio, Washington and Lee law professor Russell Miller, an expert in German Constitutional Law who has researched both U.S. and European national security issues, explains the different reactions to this news in the U.S. and Germany and why Americans seem less alarmed by the NSA program.
Miller recently gave an interview on this topic to the Germany's "Verfassungsblog," which covers constitutional law issues in Germany. In the interview he observed that a "common explanation is that American comfort with these and other recent security measures reflects the still-open wound and insecurity left by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which can be compared with Germany's recent very negative experiences with state security institutions during the National Socialist period and in the GDR. I'm interested in another possible explanation, which involves a more nuanced understanding of Americans' traditional suspicion of government and of the state.
"I think there might be evidence that Americans have traditionally embraced state power in a realm I might refer to as the core role of government. In that realm there is a deeply accepted, but very narrow, range of purposes for which Americans think government is essential. It is only outside of that narrow, core range that the American suspicion of the state surfaces. Security would have to be one of these core state functions with which Americans are much less troubled."
The full interview is available online.