Merkel Rejects NSA Comparison With Communist East German Stasi

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the country’s first leader from East Germany, rejected a comparison between U.S. data surveillance and the secret-police practices of the former communist East Bloc regime.

As controversy in Germany over data collection by the U.S. National Security Agency draws comparisons with the mass surveillance used by East Germany’s Stasi secret police, Merkel told Die Zeit newspaper that she rejects any parallel between the Stasi and espionage practices of democratic states.

“These are two completely different things,” Merkel said in the interview. “Such comparisons only amount to trivializing what state security did to people” in East Germany.

Merkel reiterated that the state needs to strike a balance between protecting its citizens’ privacy and ensuring public security, even after Germany stepped up its criticism following reports that the NSA had spied on European diplomats.

The German leader drew a distinction between surveillance used to protect citizens and the work of the Stasi, which deployed hundreds of thousands of informants to snoop on East German citizens and ensnare dissidents and other critics of the regime.

“The work of intelligence services in democratic states was and will always be indispensable for the security of citizens,” Merkel said. “A country that doesn’t undertake intelligence work would be too vulnerable.”

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