Spying among friends : the real NSA surprise

The US government's eavesdropping on allies demonstrates the old truism that great powers have no permanent allies, just permanent interests. The only real shock is that the NSA got caught.

When Angela Merkel was growing up in communist East Germany, she recalls her parents getting nervous whenever she talked for too long on the phone. "Hang up! The Stasi is listening and it's all being recorded," warned her mother, according to one biography.

But somewhere along the line between her childhood behind the Iron Curtain and becoming chancellor of a united Germany, Merkel apparently lost her fear of eavesdropping.

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