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Noah Feldman

Germany Spies, U.S. Denies

Why don't Americans admit to corporate espionage? China.
Can you read between the lines with those binoculars?

Can you read between the lines with those binoculars?

Photographer: Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

Reports of German spying on European corporate targets at the behest of the U.S. have led to calls that Chancellor Angela Merkel was hypocritical for complaining about U.S. spying on Germany. Well, yes -- but the hypocrisy of politicians hardly comes as a shock. What’s more striking about the recent revelations is their targets -- and what they say about U.S. government claims that it doesn’t spy on behalf of private U.S. corporations.

Start with a rather obvious question: Why would the U.S. government rely on Germany to spy on European corporations? Why not just do the spying directly? It’s not as if the U.S. lacks the intelligence capacity to do it. After all, the U.S. spied directly on Merkel in the episode that made her object so strongly and publicly and hypocritically.