NSA Surveillance Disclosures Recall Days of East German STASI
When Wolfgang Schmidt learned about NSA leaker Edward Snowden‚Äôs revelations concerning the agency's ability to collect personal data on millions of American citizens, he was astonished. When he was a lieutenant colonel in East Germany‚Äôs secret police, the STASI, his department, was limited to tapping just 40 phones every day. If a decision was made to tap a new phone, one of the others had to be disconnected. Said Schmidt: ‚ÄúFor us, this would have been a dream come true ... so much information on so many people!‚ÄĚ
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) employed more than 90,000 people, including 15,000 soldiers in the GDR army and 2,000 full-time collaborators. There were also 175,000 ‚Äúunofficial‚ÄĚ collaborators. One STASI official estimated the total to be closer to 500,000 people, or about five percent of the country‚Äôs population at the time.