In Germany, Merkel has blunt words for Obama on right to privacy

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President Obama, the former college lecturer on constitutional law, got a lecture on privacy rights Wednesday from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and faced tough questions from the German press about his perceived failure to be less warlike after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mrs. Merkel raised the subject of National Security Agency surveillance of the Internet in a private meeting with Mr. Obama in Berlin, where she emphasized the need for “proportionality.”


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Later, at a news conference with Mr. Obama at her side, she told reporters that the U.S. government needs to address concerns she shares with her ministers.

“I made clear that although we do see the need for gathering information, the topic of proportionality is always an important one and the free democratic order is based on people feeling safe,” Mrs. Merkel said.

“People have concerns precisely that there may be some kind of blanket, across-the-board gathering of information,” she said. “We talked about this. The questions that we have not yet perhaps satisfactorily addressed, we will address later on.”

Although Mr. Obama is still popular in Germany, there were some signs that Germans have become disillusioned since his celebrity-style visit to Berlin in 2008 as the Democratic nominee for U.S. president. Back then, the influential German weekly magazine Der Spiegel put Mr. Obama on its cover with the headline “Germany Meets the Superstar.”

This week, Mr. Obama again appeared on the cover of Der Spiegel, but with a markedly different headline: “The Lost Friend.”

A German reporter confronted Mr. Obama with a statement rather than a question, saying, “There were a number of hopes in the world that were in a way shattered as regards your legislative term — for example, closing down of Guantanamo, or scrapping the death penalty throughout the whole of the United States, in all of the states.”


SEE ALSO: President Obama gives no clear view on the necessity of national security programs


The reporter then reminded Mrs. Merkel that the president won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and accused Mr. Obama of “waging a drone war also via Germany.”

“Is he allowed to do that?” the reporter asked.

The president rejected reports that the U.S. is conducting drone strikes against terrorism suspects from U.S. military bases in Germany.

“We do not use Germany as a launching point for unmanned drones … as part of our counterterrorism activities,” Mr. Obama said.

He added: “It continues to be my policy that I want to close Guantanamo. It has been more difficult than I had hoped. On some issues, I need congressional authorization.”

The revelations of widespread NSA snooping into phone records and the Internet have raised concerns in privacy-conscious Europe, especially since the Obama administration said the surveillance on the Web has targeted only data from overseas.

Mr. Obama tried to reassure his German hosts that the U.S. hasn’t invaded their privacy.

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