The revelations of NSA spying activities have, predictably, generated plenty of headlines in Germany. The initial undertone of much of this coverage was predictable: everyone can be a victim of the super-powerful secret American surveillance state; Americans, as usual, are blindly overreacting and sacrificing their so-called liberties for the illusion of security.
However, some reporters and commentators are beginning to ask a question which would seem a lot more relevant for Germans: are German spy agencies doing similar things? The answer, depending on who you ask, is either 'probably', or 'we have no idea, since all these matters are kept secret in Germany and there have been no whistleblowers'.
The manner in which [German] spy agencies use the considerable powers granted them under current law is unknown. Therefore, it's impossible to say if there are programs in Germany which might be comparable to 'Prism'. Spy agencies operate in hiding, and [parliamentary] oversight is performed by a committee whose meetings are strictly confidential. Whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning have not come forward in Germany in recent years.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the main spy agency is planning a €100 million program to train and hire 100 new spies for Internet surveillance.
Two questions: (1) Where are the German whistleblowers? and (2) If one actually came forward, would he or she be celebrated as a hero by Germans, or denounced as a 'nest-fouler' who is endangering valuable and necessary security measures?