The useful services of the CIA, BND and co. for their democracies Ruthless Criticism

Translated from GegenStandpunkt 1-2006

So much for the “opaque shadow empire,” “extra-democratic gray zone” and the “mysterious world of intelligence services”

Secret and yet not to be overlooked:
The useful services of the CIA, BND and co. for their democracies

From the global anti-terror war, incidents have come to public light that are causing a stir in the Western democracies which are involved in this war in different ways: in the motherland of freedom and the rule of law, citizens are being investigated by secret services which circumvent the law and what’s right; a presidential edict replaces the judge’s ‘habeas corpus’; the same secret services of the same country pick up suspected Muslims from all over the world and deport them by plane to unknown locations; all that’s known is that there at least they won’t be bothered when using the rather non-humane interrogation methods conducive to their ‘findings.’ America’s European partners, Germany in the forefront, are repeatedly implicated: as a ‘hub’ of the busy air traffic that the CIA sets up to transport its prisoners; at least two of them are German citizens, one is taken from Macedonia to Afghanistan and interrogated there, the other is tortured in Syria; in both cases, the German BND is implicated, either “not directly involved” or “mixed up in it”; then it comes to light that two BND agents in Baghdad undermined former Chancellor Schröder’s courageous 'No!’ to America’s war and made themselves useful to the world power by researching target coordinates; from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry it becomes known that the CIA maintains torture dependencies in the middle of the European cradle of civilization and human rights, with the active assistance of the respective states – “the ends justifies all means” for the world power; the questions that follow are highly exciting: “who” knew about the “secret intrigues” of their secret services “on our side at a higher level” and when, or who possibly “colluded with them through tacit acquiescence” or even covered it up; whether therefore “even the BND” is involved in, for example, “the torture of German citizens”; whether such a thing as a secret service “is not a contradiction to democracy”; whether, as far as the German BND is concerned, a “committee of inquiry” could and should finally “shine a light on the darkness,” and so on.

Anyone who asks such questions no longer gets upset about the intrigues of the secret services on behalf of the state which they have become aware of. In any case, one does not want to get to the bottom of the political ends that apparently justify some of the means. One prefers to infer from the shady intrigues that have been exposed, in a purposely circular way, that the reason is an equally shady highhandedness of the secret services, i.e. negligence on the part of those who are politically responsible for their services, but who obviously lack effective control over them. So the secret services are demonized as an ominous realm of shadows in a politically uncontrolled no-man’s land about which, when something becomes public about their activities, one would like to be enlightened by one’s supreme democratic ruler – this call to clear things up that stirs up responsible citizens is not very eager for insight. The thoughts that could bring ‘light to the dark’ are not that difficult, without any investigations by the public prosecutor and certainly without convening a parliamentary commission, namely only by means of a few distinctions.


National security is the supreme object of protection known to nations. Even if they show each other respect, maintain civilized diplomatic relations, and many friendly ones at all levels: Competing monopolists on the use of force do not dare cross paths. In the midst of the most beautiful peace, they not only look after of their military as a reliable instrument of their national self-assertion. For them, everyday political routine also includes an active security policy which they pursue well in advance of any military conflict and for which they provide their diplomatic emissaries abroad with the appropriately trained specialists of their intelligence and other secret services.

States like to call their paramilitary federal agencies, or otherwise constituted associations, “intelligence services” because their informers and spies, first of all, have to obtain “knowledge” in friendly as well as hostile foreign countries about every possible thing that matters for their own national security. Hence primarily about whatever threats are emanating from the foreign power’s means of violence; whatever efforts ‘the other side’ is secretly pursuing against its own; whatever shifts in the management of violence are going on, from which ‘forces’ they emanate, from which others something else is threatening – in short: the agents of the services simply have to find out everything worth knowing about foreign states’ internal management of force, and this, if possible, from all states that are of importance in the world-political competition, so are of concern to their own progress as a condition as well as a barrier. In principle, all states are plagued by a thirst for knowledge of this somewhat one-sided kind; to satisfy it to some extent according to one’s own claim, however, is reserved for those which, thanks to their success in the competition for money and the power to regulate world-political questions of order and violence, are in any case already in the forefront and accordingly practically involved in all important international issues of violence: together with their ‘global political weight,’ their security interests are also growing, and along with these, the areas of responsibility and tasks for their unofficial security policy departments. However, their mission is by no means limited to merely investigating the force that is managed by foreign powers: If it seems politically necessary for the interests of their country, they also intervene ‘operationally.’ They finance and direct ‘oppositional efforts’ in one place, infiltrate ‘disagreeable forces’ in another, and eliminate them if necessary; sometimes they even finish off a government they do not like. Interfering in the internal affairs of others in the name of the security of their own nation or otherwise for their political advantage, even with practical force if necessary, is thus the service that these people provide for their respective state clients. Their activities within the broad spectrum between information gathering, disruption, and subversion are beyond any applicable legalisms in civilian life and would be measured as criminality but are not because of the higher political motives with which the agents are hard at work. For the foreign states in which they operate, however, their activities constitute a crime of their own kind – and if they are caught in the act of ‘treason,’ it depends entirely on the relations between the sending and receiving states how they are dealt with. Sometimes there is an explicit interest in treating them as an occasion for deliberately deteriorating mutual relations; sometimes not, and then they can hope to be released in an exchange of colleagues and continue to serve their homeland.


The U.S.A, and its allies also have their good reasons to stick to the functional division of labor between their military and their secret intelligence services in their officially declared war against the Islamic enemies of their world order: State officials with weapons who intervene in warfare on their own responsibility, covertly, and without attributable state instructions, are a productive force of violence in the fight against ‘terrorist networks.’

Against what and with what the Western nations currently have to defend their national security is well known: Anyone who tries to assert himself as an anti-American or anti-Western state counter-power is considered a ‘hotbed of terrorism,’ a case for termination reserved for the military of a ‘coalition of the willing’; the secret services provide the data and coordinates that then allow a world power to wage its wars so wonderfully ‘asymmetrically’ and with such limitless superiority. Anyone who, on a non-governmental level, associates himself with the fundamentalist anti-American camp, even only ideally, is declared an enemy of the state as a private person and is fought accordingly as a ‘terrorist.’ Here, especially in identifying and draining the ‘terrorist swamp’ in which the anti-Western NGOs nestle and form their ‘networks,’ the secret services are then in their element. They search their own home societies for exponents of an all too strict faith in the false prophet; this always gives them reason to suspect the existence of a correspondingly hardened deviant attitude, and this is already as good as an initial suspicion that the person in question will soon take the next step to a terrorist act. They collect such dodgy subjects, suspected opponents of the Western world order or value system who have become suspiciously conspicuous or suspiciously inconspicuous, and render them harmless; spying on them, kidnapping them, and locking them away are just as much a part of their learned craft as torture, which leads to further ‘insights’ into the threat situation. The same exploration of the ‘terrorists’ environment’ is of course also carried out in all suspicious regions of the world, and the fact that the transition from an ‘insight’ often enough leads to the precise liquidation of ‘terrorist leaders’ is also part of the logic of the profession: With all the modern technical means available and by using them as effectively as possible and as straightforwardly brutally as necessary, the secret services take preventive action against the enemies of their states, and the decisive rules and commandments to which they adhere are, as usual in war, those of effectiveness in the use of force.


The cooperation of the secret services of the Western nations with one another also contributes to this when they fight against a common enemy, as in the past against Bolshevism and today against ‘international terrorism.’ The fight against a ‘transnational network’ takes place across all national borders, in its unofficial branch for which the secret services are responsible, even across the political conflicts or differences that may exist between the states of the anti-terror alliance in general and with regard to their approach to ‘terror’ in particular: The services have their own criteria according to which they ensure the inviolability of their respective nation’s security interests, are stubbornly guided by ‘national security’ as the overriding premise for mission success when cooperating with competing outfits, and rather less by the diplomatic language rules that officially balance the status of foreign policy relations between their political employers. Therefore, all Western intelligence services are of course on the ground in the ‘Middle Eastern crisis region’ and take care of the duties arising from the fight against the common enemy in competition against each other as well as in active cooperation with each other. Of course, the BND is also present on the scene of a war that its own government does not support – Germany’s national security is affected by the world power’s war in any case, and it also has to be protected in the form of the tank crews and other soldiers stationed in the neighboring state of Kuwait. And if BND agents then provide the belligerent world power with useful information, this friendly service is, by the way, completely on the level of logistical cooperation between the NATO partners Germany and the USA in this war, which is unofficially operated and not at all cancelled by a Red-Green peace policy, and for this reason alone is completely fine.


An organization like the CIA certainly does not take the yardstick for its actions in the war on terror from the courtesies and pronouncements of intergovernmental diplomacy. The CIA not only has the means to fight the enemy that many NATO countries might dream of, but also the necessary freedom of action to use them effectively. Therefore, the glorious CIA tradition of ‘intelligence wars’ with the most modern high-tech equipment is continued on a small scale, e.g. in Yemen; and if high-ranking al-Qaeda members are suspected of being in a village, it is bombed from the air even if it is in Pakistan, i.e. on the territory of a close ally in the anti-terror war. To their formal protest, nobody in Washington nor in the Pentagon knows anything about a military action, and this is not just a successful joke among state terrorists: this is above all a message to deter America’s enemies. They should no longer be able to feel safe in any of their retreats because the world power not only intends to “smoke them out everywhere” (Bush), but also has the means, in the form of its secret services, to put down their threat of terrorism with superior counterterrorism.


Like everything else, the democratic state also organizes the violence apparatus of its intelligence services with legal rules and regulations. These apply to their mission, to the framework within which they are responsible for fulfilling it, and to the limits they must observe in doing so: There are laws for all of this, and the services must abide by them. In addition, they are subject to constant democratic control when exercising the freedom open to them in the constitutional state: by their political clients in government; by the scrutinizing gaze of an opposition that never sees the homeland and its security in good enough hands with those in power; but above all by an incredibly attentive public that, in its perspicacity, regularly makes the discovery that whenever something becomes known about the secret intrigues of these services, it usually does not correspond at all to the moral standards and legal rules that everyone else adheres to: “Scandal!”

The clean break that German democracy has made with the terrible secret police of its predecessor state turns out to be convincing enough that the external gestapo of democracy comes across in laws like a parallel university: The Federal Intelligence Service “collects the necessary information to gain knowledge about foreign countries that is of foreign and security policy importance to the Federal Republic and evaluates it” (BNDG § 1); it has no police or other directive powers (§ 2), but rather informs the head of the Federal Chancellery about its activities and the federal ministers about its findings (§ 12), so that one thing can be said with certainty about this intelligence gathering and dissemination office: It is perfectly integrated into the democratic constitutional state with a concise 12 paragraphs. Of course, as mentioned above, the purpose and mission of this office can only be successfully fulfilled if the rules of the constitutional state, which are binding for all other citizens, do not apply to those who do its work by acquiring and evaluating security-relevant ‘information.’ In any case, respect for civil liberties and other personal rights is not expected of them in exercising their duty for the fatherland; on the contrary, the legal principles that are relevant to them – like those for the non-covert use of military force against the outside world – are explicitly codified as exceptions to the rule. The secret services of democracy have a license to investigate and deal with ‘terrorist suspects’ and other creatures relevant to national security in a way that goes far beyond the limits that state power imposes on itself in its everyday legal dealings with its own and foreign citizens. They are authorized to fight enemies of the state in this way without the rule of law departing from any of its sacrosanct human rights or otherwise applicable principles: the definition of the mission for the secret services is tacitly accompanied by the opening of the necessary freedoms for its successful exercise; the principles of legitimacy, which the rule of law otherwise strictly commits itself to in the exercise of force by its public agencies as well as in civil dealings with its citizens, simply do not apply to the power apparatus of its secret services.

Of course, it does not release an agency of outlaws into the realm of indiscriminate private power, but obviously attaches importance to remaining master of the legal exceptions it grants its secret services: It lays down by law that its BND and its other unofficial apparatuses of violence at no point escape its politically controlling oversight, and it has its good reasons for doing so. First of all, there is the very fundamental and terribly obvious reason of preventing the danger of a certain independence of the clandestine power apparatus: its authorization must not lead to autonomy – the eternal paradox of a secret service, which not only dictatorships try to handle by multiplying their secret services and having each monitor the other. Moreover, their mandate to interfere in the ‘internal affairs’ of other nations is always a very sensitive matter between states, so that the political leadership must know where and how and with what risk their security services are operating. In step with the vicissitudes of global and national security policy, with the changing “foreign policy priorities,” with new “political lines” in dealing with individual states, as well as with orientation toward world political compass points, it is also necessary to turn the attention of state security specialists in the politically opportune direction in each case, to brake the engagement of the machinery of power secretly working on its own responsibility in one case, and to increase it in another. With the corresponding procedural guidelines – as befits the rule of law – laid down in legal form, according to which these state security agents, released from ordinary life under the rule of law, are to be regularly committed to the government’s general lines of foreign policy, the political-functional service of the agents is ensured, and the total artwork of a democratic secret service is finally finished.


The fact that BND affairs make the rounds in German democracy from time to time can’t be ignored for precisely this reason. Whenever one of the many secret intrigues that no one knew anything about becomes known, the public has to digest the fact that, in the middle of this fine and non-violent democratic world full of human rights and freedoms, there are people working on behalf of the state who seem to be doing things that are clearly in bad taste and not at all philanthropic. “Are they allowed to do that?” is the question that immediately arises in a democracy – and with this question, one purposefully turns away from the state commissioner and licensor of the offensive activity that has been exposed and looks at the much more interesting question of its legitimacy in moral-ethical as well as legal terms. The national crisis team of the democratic public sphere, which is in permanent session, has its first clue to be critical of the incumbent government in the mere fact that the affair has been exposed: BND agents, who are known to smuggle plutonium into the country, interrogating compatriots in secret dungeons, watching them being tortured ... – “A slip up” is the first convincing argument that undoubtedly points in the direction of “failure”; after all, a secret service is not called that for nothing. Then, the first thing is to check whether what comes to light was at all necessary for national security; if it was justified in this sense, the matter is okay and thus already settled; if not, there is further investigation: Who among those responsible was responsible for it, who knew what, possibly covered it up, or even hushed it up in the end? Doesn't it hurt the democratic constitutional state if it tolerates “dirty” to “illegal practices” by its public servants? Isn’t a secret service even a “contradiction” to democracy – “in which all state power must be publicly controlled” (Prantl, SZ, Jan. 18)? With this, at the latest, the critical public spirit has then set the “scandal” on a track that simply leads to the realm of the absurd: the scandal is fundamentally not the state power, no offense is taken at the claimed need for ‘security’ that is satisfied with such methods – in principle, all of this has to be somehow okay; as a rule, it is, as long as nothing is revealed about the dirty dealings of the secret services; but if this is the case and something comes to light, it is clear that those politically responsible must have fumbled in their task of ensuring that their work is permanently free of dirt by means of “democratic control of the secret services” – and that is the scandal. The exposed intrigue is declared to be an exception to a normal political case that defies any criticism, and the urgent request to prevent such slips from occurring in the future is then passed on to the political master of services. He shows full understanding for the concern – “strengthen the controllers” is the cross-party imperative, and: “all factions demand better supervision of the services” (SZ, 18.1.) – and is himself, incidentally, also well prepared to comply with it resolutely. The beneficial difference between democracy and the inhumane and illegitimate arbitrary rule of dictatorship lies in the established procedures by which those elected by the people are strictly controlled with regard to the performance of their official duties, and also control themselves in this respect; if these are observed, the rulers appointed by the people have everything under control and their rule is legitimate; together with their rule, therefore, everything that is planned and implemented in order to defend them from their foreign enemies is perfectly fine – and precisely these rules of procedure have long since been established by a constitutional state in the department of “control of the secret services,” even for the unofficial civil servants. With its investigative committees, special sessions, and parliamentary oversight committees, it has a whole institutionalized inventory at the ready to certify the integrity of the rule of law, to affix the general lie about the human rights goodness of a democratically and procedurally regulated power even to the exposed dirty deeds of its covertly operating agents and to retroactively canonize them democratically: Because the democratic procedure sanctifies the grand purpose, the ends then justifies all the means. The handling of a ‘scandal’, which essentially misses what is democratic about the democratic secret service, is thus logically in the best of hands with the parliamentarians: After a bit of back and forth between the government and the opposition, the majority of them agree, first, that they are, of course, in charge of the situation, that they have already looked into everything regarding the warriors for Germany's national security and that they have everything perfectly under control; and second, that in the name of the highly protected good of “national security,” much too much publicity can only be detrimental to the service that democracy demands and receives from its foreign experts, who are as shy of the lights as they are willing to use violence.


The wrong questions about ‘legitimacy,’ ‘human rights,’ and ‘democratic control’ that are rolled out in the public scandal surrounding leaked intelligence activities are not only purposefully distracting from the issue. The broader political collateral benefit of this distraction is to accustom the democratic public to the necessities that are essential to the defense of democratic freedoms and human rights. It also means that, once the basic humanist discussion is underway, experts on national security and political values in Germany will be able to enter the discussion without any preconceived notions about what democrats will soon have to get used to as a new normal in the wake of their war on terror.

That’s why the western leading power maintains a concentration camp in Guantanamo; that’s why the US secret service flies so much in and around Europe; that’s why people are tortured in Cuba, in Iraq, in Syria and Egypt and in umpteen other places, etc. etc.: Nothing is kept secret in the democratic public sphere, and some people may also be honestly appalled, perhaps even outraged, at what is being brought forward. It’s just that reporters aren’t interested in such revelations, which is why they do not merely present news about the disgraceful deeds with which the fine democracies ensure their security. They fulfill their duty to inform in order to fuel a discussion that revolves around completely different political questions, for example, whether one should not distance oneself more vigorously from the friendly world power; whether it isn’t taking things too far, and whether Germany does not owe itself a little more ‘backbone,’ maybe even a little opposition; whether, conversely, one’s own distancing from the USA’s war has not lost credibility, whether it was not just a hoax from the beginning, etc. Accordingly, the reporters always give their addressees the appropriate guideline along which they have to align their outrage, and it is bizarre: Was it legal? is the standard by which they have to judge the facts. Under the scrutinizing gaze of whether the law might provide a point of view for finding the matter acceptable, one does not even start dealing with the matter itself – and just ticks it off as a given.

So one is informed about the activities of the torturers of the free world’s leading power – and is then mainly interested in whether and under which legal titles a German public prosecutor can shape the facts of a case that can also be accused of him: Did the CIA agent put a foot on German territory during the stopover? Has the NATO troop statute been violated? Were German authorities guilty of failing to provide assistance in the el-Masri case? Those who want to know also like to delve into such exciting questions as whether the CIA can be sued in Germany at all; how differently one can interpret ‘human rights’; whether the U.S. president is going too far in ordering his agency to spy on his own citizens without a court order; whether this does not harm him – one finds it rather less exciting that a CIA drone wipes out half a village in Pakistan, and there is a logic to this: In this stupid pose of an imaginary judge of the rights and wrongs of the deeds of the democratic secret services, one becomes accustomed to everything that occurs and is normal in the realm of the unofficial activity of state power because it is obviously indispensable for the defense of democracy against its insidious opponents. By simply ignoring the political purposes and reasons of the events, one makes peace with everything, with the terror that democracy considers useful in its struggle against its enemies, as well as with the practical clarification of the importance and validity of the liberties of its citizens. If there is any distancing from anything, it is in the just plain stupid manner of politicized citizens who can’t stand it when the national intelligence service publicly starts talking about “disasters” and “glitches,” join in the anti-criticism of democratic scandal-mongering, and think that sighing for better governance, for “more control” of the intelligence services and “better oversight” of them, is an objection to anything. And where the people are so constructively engaged in questions about the effectiveness, legality, and legitimacy of the activities of the national intelligence services, their political leaders are happy to offer further advice on proper appreciation of their activities.


The Federal Minister of the Interior, who is responsible for counter-terrorism, must address the publicly circulating suspicion that even our squeaky-clean boys from the BND might have resorted to the instrument of torture, which is absolutely forbidden by the rule of law, in their search for ‘intelligence.’ According to him, the matter of torture would have to be judged in the value quadrangle of ‘freedom,’ ‘human rights,’ and ‘rule of law’ on the one hand and ‘security’ on the other, and for him, and of course for all other fighters for ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights’ as well, it is unalterably clear: “The principles of the rule of law must not be abandoned in the fight against terrorism” (P. Müller, CDU). On the other hand, there is the value of ‘security,’ without which democracies can’t fight for the principles they stand for and must never abandon. So the exciting question is: what about the ‘information’ which is useful for ‘security’ but can only be obtained by giving up all other sacred values, and the German Minister of the Interior, under “terrible pangs of conscience” (Schäuble), at least manages to come up with an answer, which even the citizens, who are rather unversed in questions of values, can relate to: “If we were to say that we would never use information that we can’t be sure could be obtained under perfectly constitutional conditions – that would be completely irresponsible.” (Spiegel, 52/05) Of course, this is not a free avowal to then cheerfully take corresponding actions in the name of German state security. But that is not necessary in a democratic constitutional state. It is perfectly sufficient for a statesman to draw his sum from 4 weeks of public discussion of the “BND affair,” “CIA prisoner flights” and “torture scandals.” Then he lets the point of view he considers decisive to be known, under which the whole affair has to be appreciated, and thus also the responsible “attitude toward torture” – friends of human rights know there are obviously several alternatives – that has to be taken by all the rest of the nation’s members. In any case, a Schäuble knows a good reason for violence even when it comes to torture and says it frankly: The benefit of torture for a democracy and its 'security' from the terror of others can’t be denied, and since the BND itself is not allowed to lay a hand under any circumstance, it is democratically perfectly okay if its torturing activities in “cooperation” with the other services are limited to looking the other way. In the ensuing political debate over which “red lines” German democrats “must not cross under any circumstances” for the sake of this yield (Schäuble), the public then also adopts an attitude toward torture that is guaranteed to no longer be one thing: a simple consequence of the immediately felt revulsion, because that would be completely irresponsible. On the other hand, it is very responsible to join the Minister of the Interior and his colleagues in a search for the rules and restrictions in the constitutional state that, in addition to prohibiting torture, stand in the way of its effective defense both internally and externally.


The pretense that democratic control of the secret services would be the same as effectively obligating them to treat people with respect, etc., and that functionally discharging them would be the same as strictly limiting their ‘services’ to the permitted necessities, finds practical application in diplomacy. Namely, it is used to incriminate the secret service intrigues of powers which are not allowed to use ‘security’ as a justification: political enemies, with their agents, legitimate the enemy image that is cultivated of them. Of course, this quid pro quo is used in a calculating way. Sometimes without restraint – Syrian agents in Lebanon are a “signal” of the hostility emanating from their state; sometimes with understanding – Russia’s agents are not always directly in the tradition of the evil KGB; and – with all due caution – also currently in dealings with their own leading power.

In its own way, the U.S. also pays utmost respect to the precepts of the rule of law that apply in its country: To ensure that they are not damaged in any way, it avoids, as best it can, any collision between them and the necessities of its war on terror. For the effective prosecution and elimination of militant Islamists, it has therefore set up a secret apparatus of force, nationally as well as internationally, which is a priori immune to any examination of its legitimacy under the rule of law, and it is using the blessings of the international division of labor for this purpose as well: In cooperation with ‘wicked’– as well as very many friendly – states, it is setting up a terror network of freedom, sorting states along the criterion of how well they can ‘outsource’ torture, where people can be made to disappear without any problem, and where they can otherwise quite freely try out “unique and innovative ways” (CIA Director Goss) to serve the democratic acquisition of knowledge. But concerns are being raised in European public and government circles about the liberties that the U.S. and its secret services are taking. Of course one stands steadfast side by side with the world power in the ‘war on terror,’ and of course this also includes the active cooperation of one’s own secret services with those of the USA. But one’s own political rank and status is a completely different thing, which on the one hand one calculates in this struggle and on the other hand is assigned it by the super-power partner, and in this competition over world-political status issues between America and Europe, bigger and lesser issues from the world of the international hunt for terrorists have become an instrument of diplomacy. The CIA’s torture and abduction victims offer a double opportunity for some European states: First, they are not their own, so they are proof of how Europe’s model democracies stand out from the rest in protecting their security interests. Second, for the same reason, they also allow them to maintain a critical distance from America by invoking violations of human rights and international law. By pointing to the victims of torture and abduction, one raises the fundamental question of the legitimacy of the world power’s actions – not, of course, because one intends to seriously refuse to respect its sovereignty in the near future: The deviation from its own codes of democracy, freedom, and human rights, which it is fighting for worldwide, is held against the US in order to remind it that it can’t take every liberty in this struggle, that it can’t proceed alone and solely according to its own discretion in the choice of means, because the interests of its sovereign partners must also be respected. It doesn’t matter at all which ones and what they may be in detail, and it is not a question of whether they want more ‘say’ or ‘consideration’: the fact that they can’t be ignored by their leading power and do not want to be ignored is the message that some of their European partners are sending it.

This political tribulation, on the one hand, and the calculation, on the other, as to what kind of behavior one can and wants to afford vis-à-vis the world power in general and here in particular, then gives transatlantic foreign policy relations a wonderful chapter of the most exquisite political hypocrisy: “Guantanamo!” The weighty meaning of the word does not lie in the concentration camp it refers to, but is measured first of all by the political rank of the person who utters it, then by when, where, and to whom he does, and above all by the deeper diplomatic meaning he would like to have attached to his courageous statement. It goes on like this for a while, then the congenial echoes come from America: “We are sending the message to the world that the USA is not like the terrorists” (Bush, according to SZ, December 17/18, 2005) – from now on one can distinguish the two from each other by the fact that in the cradle of freedom “cruel or inhuman methods” (ibid.) are forbidden by law to the government officials, while the terrorists do not even have cruel government officials who could forbid them from doing things. Then US intelligence agents spread information that the lies used to justify the war against Saddam were drawn from the “BND source ‘Curveball’” (Spiegel, 3/06), thank the Germans loudly and audibly for their cooperation in the war, let it be known that their Italian colleagues were involved in kidnapping a suspect from Milan, and so on. So the European Goody Two Shoes have their own dirty laundry, and so the time is ripe again for a round of de-escalation. In order to investigate possible human rights violations in the course of the CIA flights, the Europeans engage the Council of Europe, an organization without any power of its own, which nevertheless represents the united Europe; the commissioner starts to investigate prisoner flights and secret prisons – and bangs his head against the wall with his own clients: “Marty hits the wall ... Apparently, details of the illegal operations were known and tolerated in some European capitals.” (SZ, January 5/6, 2006) Of course, the prosecutor will not be able to count on support from Switzerland. In his home country, the secret service intercepted a list of US secret prisons distributed in Europe, someone leaked it to the public, and since then one fears bad things in Zurich – not for Europe, certainly not for the detainees, but “serious consequences for the Swiss secret services. Foreign partners would presumably exercise great restraint in exchanging information in the near future.” (NZZ, January 10, 2006) The effectiveness of their clandestine anti-terrorist forces could somehow be damaged – these are then again the honest concerns that states have in their ‘war on terror.’