The charges thrown by European pols and activists that the U.S. employs methods similar to Stasi, the secret police of East Germany are ludicrous. The bleats of German pol Markus Ferber of "American-style Stasi methods" are quick to gain cheers, but they are demagogic. Fortunately, Angela Merkel, Germany's leader, has condemned such comparisons.
Democratic nations spy on each other. That's a fact, not an outrage. The revelations of Edward Snowden that justifiably sparked a debate in the U.S. were news that the National Security Agency and the FBI are collecting data on citizens' phone and Internet communications. Later revelations, courtesy of Snowden's leaks, that the U.S. has collected intelligence on other nations is not a reason for alarm. Nations that are protesting this news -- whether authoritarian or democratic -- are being hypocritical. They all engage in the practice.
But not like the Stasi did it. Stasi, as well as other communist intelligence operatives of that era -- spied on every aspect of a citizens' life. Any lifestyle deviation from what was dictated by the communist dictatorship was considered a crime. There is a DVD, called "The Life of an Agent," (http://www.funzine.hu/2008-07-the-life-of-an-agent/) that contains 1970s-era surveillance training videos from the communist dictatorship in Hungary. Today, it is purchased and viewed as a curio of a Stasi-like society. In the film, a citizens' desire to own products and materials from outside the communist nation is considered a crime, worthy of jailing. That's the way it was in that era.
That's a reminder that any comparison to U.S. intelligence gathering to Stasi tactics is wrong, factually and morally. Charles Lane, editorial writer for the Washington Post, is correct when he writes, "Given the threats to democracy, and the technological milieu from which they may emerge, the United States needs to engage in data collection on a wide scale, both at home and abroad. (http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/07/16/us-no-east-germany) The issue is whether it has checks and balances to ensure that these means remain politically and legally subordinate to legitimate ends."
Edward Snowden, meanwhile, is hunkered down in Russia, desiring sanctuary in nations that often spurn democratic values. It will be ironic if Mr. Snowden's fate is ultimately to become a propaganda tool for a nation hostile to democracy.