No surprises that Britain, specifically GCHQ, has become the Atlantic Bridge, between European and North American surveillance. It is quite astonishing that GCHQ's role encompassed training, assessment of their competence and acting as a negotiator in passing knowhow on elint exercises. Now their role is out in the open, though there is a muted call for reform in the United Kingdom. No doubt a perverse pride in the role of the spies helps and the strong relationship with the telecommunications and internet companies remain in place (Does this explain the appointment of Huawei? A sanctioned link to the Chinese? Have we been exporting our expertise even to Beijing? And importing theirs?)
The role of Germany is unclear. The attempts by the German secret services to enhance surveillance have caused immense oppoition at home. This may stem from Angela Merkel's experience of living in Eastern Germany and explains her personal anger at actions associated with police states. The revelations have set off a number of diplomatoic activities that Putin's Russia have been quick to capitalise upon. Germany and Brazil have drafted a non-binding UN resolution that calls for the end of mass surveillance and will be supported by many countries that undertake such activities so that they can continue to embarrass the United States. There are also calls to give Snowden asylum in Germany: a move that could represent a distinct rupture in the security alliance between Germany and the rest of the West.
The actions of Germany indicate a restlessness in its role, with rumours that there are moves either towards or away from the United States. Clearly, there is a greater sensitivity towards surveillance in Germany amongst its politicians than in other polities and this results in statements and diplomatic actions.
But like priests at confession: spies can only listen; they are unable to change very much in the long run. But they can cause corrosion of our laws and governance. Best they stop then.