The National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance capabilities would have been “a dream come true” for East Germany, a former lieutenant colonel in the defunct communist country’s secret police told Matthew Schofield of McClatchy.
The Stasi was one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies in the world.
Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal called them “worse than the Gestapo,” referring to the secret police of Nazi Germany.
“You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,” Wolfgang Schmidt said. “So much information, on so many people.”
The comments echo those made NSA whistleblower William Binney Binney, who told documentarian Laura Poitras that the danger of the NSA’s domestic dragnet is that “we fall into a totalitarian state. This is something the KGB, the Stasi or the Gestapo would have loved to have had.”
Schmidt noted that the Stasi could only tap 40 phones at a time because of a lack of equipment and technology.
The 73-year-old also told McClatchy that the “only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”
That echoes an argument made by the ACLU about the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata.
“The crucial constitutional moment, for Fourth Amendment purposes, is the moment the government seizes our information — not what it does with it afterwards,” Patrick C. Toomey of the ACLU told Business Insider (emphasis ours). “That’s the case because putting a complete log of our communications in the government’s hands invites grave abuse and exposes us to invasions of privacy that cannot be justified, even retroactively. … Our Constitution doesn’t permit the government to record our every phone call or communication now, without suspicion, and then ask questions later. That assertion flips the Fourth Amendment on its head.”
Schofield writes that Schmidt, who “headed one of the more infamous departments in the infamous Stasi, called himself appalled. The dark side to gathering such a broad, seemingly untargeted, amount of information is obvious,” according to Schmidt.
“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the nature of secret government organisations.”So if you’re having a discussion about whether or not Americans live in a surveillance state, show them this.
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