German artist Oliver Bienkowski probably wasn’t seeking the U.S. government’s approval when he projected onto the U.S. embassy in Berlin, early last Saturday, the words “NSA in da House” beside a peace sign and an image of President Obama wearing a backwards baseball cap.
But the U.S. State Department, while it disagrees with the message, says it’s okay with the act.
“Well, I strongly disagree with the message in it, but support the ability of people to freely express that message,” State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters at Tuesday’s daily press briefing.
They were the first substantive comments the State Dept. had offered on the act.
The U.S. and Germany have had some recent diplomatic tensions over American spy policy. Last fall, it was revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had eavesdropped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s phone conversations, sparking public backlash in Germany. This month, Germany reportedly expelled the top U.S. spy in the country, after German media reported on two incidents of Germans suspected of passing German government or intelligence secrets to the U.S.
On July 13, Secretary of State John Kerry met with his German counterpart in Vienna, discussing “bilateral issues” along with a host of other matters including Iran’s nuclear program, the focus of international meetings in Vienna that weekend.
On Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough met with his German counterpart, Merkel chief of staff Peter Altmaier, along with Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Lisa Monaco and Gunter Heiss, the German intelligence chief, in Berlin, to follow up on a conversation between President Obama and Merkel on intelligence and security matters, the White House said Tuesday.