The currently discussed espionage by the BND, CIA and Crypto AG forms on the one hand a real scandal, which was not unknown. The case concerns not only the secret services, but also many media, because it provokes sometimes inappropriate and hypocritical reporting.
For decades, the BND and the CIA have built backdoors into Crypto AG’s encryption devices, allowing more than 130 governments and intelligence agencies to follow the communications. The BND left in the 1990s, and the CIA continued the operation until 2018. On the one hand, this process is a real scandal: once again, it puts the phrases of the “good west” and the current excitement about “interference” to the test and classifies them as hypocrisy. The process itself should not be the subject here, backgrounds can be found on “Telepolis”.
“Century Trick” instead of Crime: Silent Respect for the Audacity of Spies
Rather, the focus is on the media’s handling of the spying. Because it is irritating in several ways. On the one hand, there is a lack of distance: numerous media take over the CIA formulation in the headline as the “coup of the century”. This formulation conveys a silent respect for the audacity and “success” of the operation, which is thus identified as a successful prank rather than a serious crime. Underneath these distorting headlines, there is some criticism of the practice of espionage. But in the title, for example, the broadcaster n-TV speaks of the “century trick of the CIA and BND”. The “Deutsche Welle” calls it the “secret service coup of the century”, as well as the “Focus” and numerous other media.
The U.S. government remained “inactive” in the Chile coup
In addition, indirect distance is created from alleged crimes committed by the West, for example in relation to Chile and Argentina in the 1970s. The reporting gives the impression, for example, that the US government was not involved in the preparations for the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende in Chile (it was merely “inactive”) or that the present “revelations” were needed to ( “For the first time” to prove that the BND and the CIA were well informed at the time about the crimes of allied Latin American regimes. Articles also partly suggest that intelligence was necessary in order to assess in principle the abysmal character of the dictatorships in Chile and Argentina, for example. These are means of actually achieving relief (from complicity) in the guise of an apparent indictment (that of complicity). Here’s how “Focus” writes:
The documents show for the first time that the BND and the CIA were informed at an early stage about the overthrow of Chilean President Allende in 1973 and the serious human rights violations by the Argentine military junta – and remained inactive.
And “Telepolis” also quotes this interpretation:
Through this massive intelligence operation, the governments in Washington and Bonn therefore had knowledge, among other things, of the bloody actions of the Argentine military junta. (…) Governments would also have learned of the crimes committed in Chile following the coup against President Salvador Allende there.
Who is spying on the German citizens?
Another criticism of the reporting is the extensive omission of the surveillance of German citizens, among other things, by foreign services, which should also be emphasized much more strongly, especially in the current context. German espionage abroad is sometimes regarded as a cavalier offence that every nation practises as far as possible, which makes it easier to report on it. The crimes can even be defended at the moment, for example by the former intelligence coordinator in the Federal Chancellery, Bernd Schmidbauer, who tells ZDF that the programme “certainly helped to make the world a bit safer.” On the other hand, there is less to be heard in the major German media about the spying of the Germans by the CIA and other US services. This is apparently largely accepted by the media and politics, as “Telepolis” had already written on the occasion of the affair about Angela Merkel’s intercepted mobile phone:
Former CIA chief Peter Goss told ZDF that Angela Merkel knew, of course, that she was in the sights of the NSA and co. She is only so outraged because the German public expects it to happen to her.
It can also be criticised for embezzled further mandatory references to current surveillance practice: are no access essays for intelligence services being incorporated into electronic means of communication today? Due to the cautious scandalization of Crypto AG and the simultaneous neglect of the current, presumably considerably more extensive monitoring of worldwide communication, the current situation is indirectly whitewashed. As a naive media consumer, one could get the impression that with the end of Crypto AG, international surveillance and interference by Western nations has also come to an end.
The “revelations” are an old hat
Finally, it should be pointed out that the story has been known for a long time without being similarly picked up by numerous major media outlets. But at the latest,a big story could have been made of who is relying on NSA files on the subject that were already published at the time. Infosperber notes:
It’s the hour of comedians again. Officially, no one knew what had been known for a long time.
Fefe writes for this:
On the one hand, I am pleased that this is being addressed, but on the other hand, I find it a bit embarrassing how ZDF is now making one on thick trousers with its super-investigative journalism of things that have been on Wikipedia for years, and then waited until the CIA could migrate its assets.
SPR takes stock of the following:
The facts about the Swiss Crypto AG (…) have been known for 25 years, see About Spiegel 1996. The current swirl, as is so often the case, is not based on investigative journalism, but on a “played-up” CIA report. “played” by whom? From the CIA itself, of course. Why? Because the operation has now been completed, all traces have been blurred, and can now be published in a controlled manner.
It is partly a media practice that is known from other events, when these can no longer be defamed as a conspiracy theory: first long deny, then dismiss as “normal”, finally celebrate as “revelation”.