BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected any comparison between US surveillance activities and pervasive snooping by communist East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, insisting in an interview published Wednesday that intelligence work is essential to security in democratic countries.
Merkel grew up in East Germany, where the Stasi had a network of tens of thousands of full-time spies and many more informers, directed primarily at curbing internal dissent. Asked in an interview with the weekly Die Zeit whether alleged bugging by the National Security Agency was reminiscent of the Stasi, the chancellor bluntly rejected the parallel.
‘‘For me, there is absolutely no comparison between the [Stasi] and the work of intelligence agencies in democratic states,’’ she said. ‘‘They are two completely different things and such comparisons only lead to a trivialization of what the Stasi did to people’’ in East Germany.
Merkel argued that democratic countries’ intelligence work ‘‘has always been and will in future be essential for the security of citizens.’’