For many in the world of political journalism, 2013 was characterised by the Edward Snowden scandal, which first broke last June and is still rumbling on. Around that time, when we were first coming to understand the extent to which the American security apparatus had been spying on everyone’s communications, I wrote in Prospect arguing that the scandal showed society had placed an over-emphasis on security to the detriment of privacy, and that this needed to change.
In the subsequent months, this was indeed the consensus that emerged as more revelations abounded—perhaps the most politically damaging for the Oabama administration being the NSA’s bugging of foreign leaders, including such allies as Germany’s Angela Merkel. Many Germans, especially those from the former East Germany, found the American’s activities to be uneasily close to those of the Stasi (indeed, Merkel herself made the comparison). Statements of disapproval from government spokespersons accompanied outraged headlines around the world, especially in Latin America, where the furore set back President Obama’s attempts to forge better relations with the region. Brazil’s President has been belligerent in her opposition to the spying.