Another paradox is that indignation about American snooping may make it easier for Russian and Chinese security services to spy on their own people and conduct cyber-espionage. "The Russians and Chinese will talk about sovereignty and non-interference in cyberspace, which is a proxy for their control agenda," argued one cyber expert.
"The Snowden disclosures are being used to renationalize the Internet and roll back changes that have weakened government control of information," argues Stewart Baker, a former NSA lawyer who writes an influential blog on cyber issues.
Many Europeans told me President Obama made a good start with his speech last month outlining new rules for the NSA, especially in his willingness to provide some version of a global Fourth Amendment. One European argued that privacy rights should be reciprocal - the U.S. should offer protections to countries that grant such rights to their own citizens, as well as Americans.
But one senior European politician warned that if his fellow citizens can't sue in U.S. courts to enforce their new privacy rights, then the European Union will withdraw its so-called "safe harbor" protection for American technology companies. This provision allows U.S. companies to operate in European cyberspace by quickly certifying that they comply with stringent EU privacy rules. Closure of this "safe harbor" could sink U.S. companies and stall e-commerce.
The NSA revelations have tapped what another top European official called "a fundamental anti-Americanism and mistrust of the U.S." He noted that if Europeans question the new post-Snowden call for limits and boundaries, they are accused of being NSA's lackeys. "Where's the pushback from the U.S.?" he asks plaintively.
In this tempest of anti-NSA feeling, one of the bravest speeches at Munich was given by German President Joachim Gauck. "We rightly complain when allies overstep the mark when they use electronic surveillance to detect threats. And yet, we prefer to remain reliant on them and hesitate to improve our own surveillance capacities," he said.
A loose interpretation of his underlying message would be: Get real, fellow Europeans. Protecting cyberspace is more complicated than bashing the NSA.
(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group