Wie die NSA wurde, was sie ist

I. Introduction

If—as the English saying goes—timing is everything, then the start of my work with KoRSE last week and my lecture today could hardly be more opportune. Security and surveillance are leading global issues in ways that they have not been for years. The story of Edward Snowden’s revelation of America’s rapacious security and surveillance operations—and his ongoing flight from American attempts to prosecute him—is as dramatic and fast-moving as anything Hollywood could dream-up.

But the intensely contemporary nature of my topic gives me pause for at least two reasons.

First, I am very well aware that news of American surveillance and espionage has stirred alarm and resentment throughout German society, sending shock waves all the way to the Kanzleramt. Personal and political relations between our countries are once again strained. With this in mind, I hope you will understand if I offer the following caveat for today’s lecture. As a simple law professor I am not in a position to speak for or defend the Obama Administration’s policies. I do have some personal and professional insight into the thinking of the President’s team, which I am happy to share with you, for whatever it is worth. And, as an American voter, I assure you that I take my democratic responsibility for the actions of my government very seriously. But these might be the limits of my ability to respond directly to and account for the developments of the last month.

Second, as a simple law professor, I must admit to having some anxiety about speaking today on a topic that can be described as “dramatic and fast-moving.” In many ways, these are the antinomies of good scholarship, which might be more properly described as “plodding and tedious.” There is a reason, I suppose, why professors play such an unimportant role in the canon of American action films. This concern requires me to offer yet another caveat for today’s lecture ...

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