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Clinton Discusses Balance of Privacy and Security, Snowden, in German TV Interview

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, June 16 2014

ZDF Screenshot

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized the importance of establishing a balance between curtailing some surveillance overreach and protecting international security in an interview with German television, while expressing wariness and skepticism about Edward Snowden's choices.

The 25-minute interview for public broadcaster ZDF, on the occasion of her new book, was with Claus Kleber, the same journalist who had interviewed President Obama on the controversy over surveillance several months ago.

Kleber cited a poll which stated that 82 percent of Germans believe the U.S. wouldn't follow a no-spy agreement between U.S. and Europe even if the U.S. signed it.

Clinton said she "deeply regretted" the distrust that Europeans and Germans in particular feel resulting from the surveillance revelations.

"Some of what we now know happened, should not have happened," she said, specifically referring to the reported tapping of Chancellor Merkel's phone.

"Didn't it occur to you once or twice that your advisors knew a little bit too much about the internal deliberations of the German government?," Kleber asked somewhat pointedly.

"No....[the phone tapping] was not something that was brought to my attention," she replied. She added that it was necessary to "redefine" privacy as an important value for the 21st Century, not jut in the context of governments, but also with respect to data held by large corporations.

She also said that many Germans and Europeans might not realize the full extent of the necessity of transatlantic security cooperation. For that reason, she said it was important to figure out how to "draw lines that should not be crossed but have enough flexibility to be able to track people who mean to do all of us harm," citing the example of the 9/11 hijackers in Hamburg.

"We have some work to do," she said. "I fully respect the questions that Germans and others are raising."

Kleber noted that establishing a shared "community of values" would be difficult "when in Germany, Snowden is admired as a hero and in America, the answer would be to kill him [through the death penalty]."

"No, that's a much too extreme reaction, " Clinton replied. "I think many of the disclosures that Snowden brought to light were unnecessarily harmful to national security In the U.S.," she went on to say, adding that the President had at the time already given a speech about the need to revisit laws passed after 9/11 and revise them if they were too broad. " There's no allegation as of yet that the NSA violated American laws, but the American laws may have given them more leeway than they should have had."

She noted that she had voted against some legal provisions that she felt did not protect privacy as a Senator.

"[Snowden] could have brought to the attention of members of Congress, to the press in a number of different ways what his concerns were," she said. "But let's look at what he did, he not only downloaded enormous amounts of information that frankly undermines the security of the U.S., Germany, Europe and our friends around the world, but went first to China and then to Russia. That is really hard to explain. Russia is a surveillance state. When I visit Russia I don't take any of my electronic equipment there, I take the batteries out because, you know, they're very good at penetrating anything and they have no transparency, you have no idea what they are doing around the world....I think it's important not to throw the baby out with the bath....There are changes we must do and part of that is to change our laws, how we enforce them, how we hold our intelligence services accountable, but make the same demands on Russia, China, Iran and others, make them transparent too, you know that will never happen. So part of our task for us today is how do we rebuild trust between two good friends.

For Clinton, part of that might involve more direct government communication, an issue she touched on in another part of the interview. She noted that as part of the policy advocated by President Obama, most of the Syrian chemical weapons are on their way to being destroyed.

"That's an important accomplishment but it needs to be carefully and consistently explained ... part of what American leaders are learning is that we have a much broader audience. It used to be enough for American presidents to talk to the American Congress, the American public, the American media and then that would be dispersed," she said. "That's no longer the case. Part of why I did the kind of diplomacy I did was I recognized that it's no longer just two government officials sitting down and talking, you have a whole universe of people behind each, you have social media operating. Even dictators have to listen to the public, as Mubarak found out, so we have to communicate more effectively and tell our story better."

Kleber's interview with Clinton generated buzz among the German media and political Twittersphere when he took the occasion of the short-notice interview to start his Twitter account, firing off short dispatches about his rush to fly to New York for seven hours for the interview at the Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan between broadcasts, and his experiences with plane delays and immigration.

"On the plane. 7 hours for preparation. Intvu is a conflict. She wants to sell book. I want to know what makes her tick. Tips, anybody?," he posted as his flight took off. Before heading back to JFK after the interview, he posted: "It's in the box. 3 cameras 25 minutes. One surprisingly energetic, open Hillary" and "In my baggage interesting comments on Syria, Putin, Obama, Snowden, her ambitions and a surprisingly hearty laugh from her. [in English]: She will go for it!"

The full interview is available here in English.

Clinton was also asked about the surveillance issue in an interview with German magazine Stern, including how she would have reacted had the German intelligence service tapped her cell phone. "I would have been just as angry as the Germans are. I would demand that my friend and ally immediately stop listening. I would demand that they would also in the future not have the means to tap my cellphone." Asked if Snowden was a traitor or a spy, Clinton said in that interview that he had broken the law and should come back to the U.S. to stand trial.

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