Phone Tapping in Germany
By Ted Heck
Tea Party members or Obama fans are focused on the hubbub surrounding
the National Security Agency’s world-wide phone tapping.
When I first learned how disturbed German Chancellor Angela Merkel was
by NSA’s nosiness, my mind flew back 61 years to a sports incident in
which talk about eavesdropping almost cost me my job.
It involved the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSCA), which was
predecessor to NSA, before President Truman scrapped it. A former
combat infantryman, I had returned to Germany as a civilian athletic
consultant to the U.S. Army, administering sports programs that kept
military personnel amused during the Cold War. I also did a sports
column for the Munich American and Overseas Weekly newspapers and
play-by-play football announcing for Armed Forces Network.
There were basketball teams with college-level players. We also had
local leagues for lesser athletes. I captained the only civilian
basketball team, which also had state department employees and two
One of my sports columns saluted a young man playing for a mysterious
army unit that no one knew anything about. They were stationed in a
remote suburb and we suspected they were in the spying business. Jim
was the star of their basketball team. I assumed he liked my story.
Apparently not! Our teams met sometime later. Jim and I stood together
under the basket, waiting for his teammate to try a foul shot.
I call it stupid now, but I thought it was camaraderie then. I turned
to him and said, “What do you hear from the Russians?
Jim gave me a blank stare.
But not the colonel of Munich Military Post the next morning. Jim had
blown the whistle on me. The colonel almost tore my head off: “Heck,
what the hell were you thinking?” And he laid out ground rules for the
future, including a restriction on ever discussing the incident. He
did not tell me that Jim’s unit was the AFSCA.
Although I saw Jim at subsequent sports events, we ignored each other.
As for the colonel’s embargo, I think six decades exceed the statute
of limitations. In today’s world, however, Chancellor Merkel and many
other foreign leaders remain miffed by the phone taps. Media are
devoting a lot of time and space to the subject.
I wonder if Jim made a career in surveillance. If he’s still around, I
suspect he's following the NSA play, but I’m sure he doesn’t share
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