President Obama made an appearance on German television today in an effort to ease tensions amid the NSA intelligence scandal. During the interview with ZDF public TV, reports Reuters, Obama took strides to mend diplomatic fences with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, stating that although they may differ on issues of foreign policy, "that is no reason to wiretap."
Differences in foreign policy don't justify wiretaps
The appearance comes a day after the president's NSA reform speech, during which he announced an end to the surveillance of leaders from ally nations. Reiterating that point, Obama told ZDF, "As long as I am the President of the United States, the German Chancellor need not worry about that." Relations between the two leaders suffered a blow last year when documents leaked to Der Spiegel revealed that the NSA had been spying on Merkel's phone since 2002. Merkel called the spying "a serious breach of trust" at the time.
Nevertheless, the president stopped short of apologizing for spying program in toto, instead characterizing the US' surveillance powers as a "special responsibility." "Why would we need intelligence services if they only found out things you can read in Spiegel or the New York Times?" he asked.
Still, Obama's statements may not go far enough. While Chancellor Merkel has not yet issued a comment, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told German paper Bild am Sonntag last weekend, "Only once we have signed a legally binding agreement that protects all citizens can lost trust be won back."