Open Letter to President Barack Obama
Dear Mr. President,
We are writing you this letter as concerned friends of your country.
For more than 60 years, Atlantik-Brücke has worked to build a strong relationship between America and Germany. Many of us have spent time in the United States during our studies and for work; and, we all have close personal friends in your country. The degree of trust that has developed between Germany and America over the last decade may, however, be threatened by the data collection techniques apparently employed by the United States' intelligence services. We have therefore chosen to address you through this open letter in order to mitigate the damage done to the trust that underpins our nations' relationship and to simultaneously ask that you take concrete steps towards addressing and reforming the questionable techniques employed by the US intelligence services.
We understand that the gathering of intelligence is a necessary measure in the maintenance of a free and safe society. We are thankful for the work performed by US intelligence agencies that has served to prevent and deter further terrorist attacks against the global community. Germany has undoubtedly benefited from US intelligence, and the close cooperation of our respective security services has demonstrably hindered terrorist attacks on our soil. To Germans, the United States shines as an example of a country firmly rooted in the rule of law. In a free government that has enshrined the universality of the law in its constitution, there is a constant balancing act between the two roles of government as a provider of national security and protector of civil liberties. However, in our view, the necessary fight against terrorism and the need to protect national security does not justify the comprehensive monitoring of data communications between organizations and private persons, and certainly not the monitoring of the telephones of German government officials, members of parliament, and European institutions.
These monitoring practices put decades of growth of mutual trust at risk. Without a firm foundation of trust and understanding, how can we proceed to talk about a community of shared values between the United States and Europe? How can we continue to teach the young generations in Germany that America is a country of freedom and civil liberties? We cannot allow the fear of terrorism to sow mistrust between our countries, our governments, and our societies.
Mr. President, by no means are we underestimating or trying to downplay the scope of the threats posed by international terrorism and driven by religious and political fanaticism. We also cannot forget the horrible images of September 11, 2001, that remain vividly seared onto the collective consciousness of our people. However, the constant threats posed to our societies cannot be addressed by the United States alone. The U.S. needs allies and friends on her side. For this reason, America needs to understand that trust is not a one way street. We hope that you will announce and impose clear boundaries for US intelligence services concerning the scale and nature of data collection. Without a clear signal from you, our common goals are in danger of being undermined. The challenges that lie before us can only be solved by Europe and the United States working together.
As this crisis of trust between Europe and the United States unfolds, we are reminded that also under consideration is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership treaty. We believe this to be the most important Transatlantic undertaking for the next decade with a scope that will far exceed increased economic cooperation. We know and treasure the fact that you have come out in support of this effort as well. Therefore, we ask you, Mr. President, to make every effort to rebuild the trust damaged by these spying revelations. Too much is at stake on both sides of the Atlantic not to do so.
Respectfully and most sincerely
Edelgard Bulmahn, Member of German Parliament
Prof. Dr. Burkhard Schwenker
Prof. Dr. Andreas Dombret