German lawmakers who took part in an international intelligence forum last week left the country disappointed that members of the U.S. Congress were not more receptive to their concerns about U.S. spying on European allies.
The German lawmakers were among more than 100 members of parliaments and ambassadors from 24 nations who took part in a closed-door, three-day intelligence security forum at the Library of Congress. The goal was to address allies’ concerns about U.S. surveillance and discuss shared objectives in light of growing threats from groups such as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
European lawmakers also heard from congressional leaders, intelligence officials and members of the executive branch.
A range of opinions were expressed and most appeared to agree the dialog was a positive step. The British lawmakers were most appreciative of the U.S. role in aiding Europe, according to attendees. The Germans and Austrians pressed the hardest on U.S. spying.
Delegates from Georgia, Latvia, Moldova were concerned about dangers surrounding the Ukraine and Russia.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., who hosted the forum, said the goal was to have a frank discussion about concerns, which it was. He said the goal now is to continue talking so the U.S. and its allies can move forward to address the more critical terrorist threat.
“No one challenged the gravity of ISIS,” said Pittenger, who leads the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism.
U.S.-German relations have worsened since it was revealed last year that the Americans were spying on its allies.
This summer, German officials opened a formal investigation of alleged U.S. spying of the chancellor’s cell phone, which were part of leaks revealed by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor. Then another investigation was launched into allegations that the United States bought German secrets from a German official.
Tim Ostermann, a member of the German parliament, didn’t’ expect a major breakthrough, but said the Americans should acknowledge that it’s not necessary to monitor the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to fight terrorism.
“We believe that allies don’t spy on allies,” said Mutlu Ozcan, a member of the German parliament.
Ostermann and Ozcan agreed that conversations should continue.