The Chilling Effect of the NSA Surveillance Leaks

BERLIN-In this city, one of the great world capitals, history is never far away. It permeates every aspect of daily life, and the German people are quite proud of much of that history. But there were dark days here too, and not so long ago, when the Stasi, the East German secret police, operated a pervasive surveillance apparatus that kept tabs on millions of Germans as a matter of course. Phone calls, daily movements and business dealings were monitored, ostensibly for the security of the nation. The environment then was quite different, obviously, from the atmosphere in the United States and other democracies today, but the effects of large-scale surveillance, security researcher Andrew Lee argues, remain psychologically devastating and debilitating for most people.During the height of the Cold War, the surveillance apparatuses in East Germany and other countries were extensive and pervasive, but many people were aware that they were being watched on some level. What they didn’t know was how all-encompassing the data-gathering was and how the information was being used. When those details eventually were revealed, it had a profound effect.

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