Diplomatic relations between Germany and American have been hit again by allegations of spying, this time by reports that agents of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) have been using an employee of the German intelligence service (BND) to obtain government documents meant for a parliamentary committee investigating the scope of U.S. and allied espionage in Germany.
Polls show these repeated incidents of spying have made Germans want their country to have more “independence” from the U.S.
Prosecutors say a 31-year-old German was arrested last week on suspicion of spying for foreign intelligence services – named by the German press as U.S. intelligence — and that he allegedly handed over 218 documents between 2012 and 2014.
This follows a confrontation in autumn last year between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Obama after Merkel discovered that U.S. intelligence had been tapping her personal mobile telephone since 2002. She told Obama the NSA were acting “like the Stasi,” the secret police of the former Communist East Germany.
Subsequently the Obama administration refused to give Berlin a “no spying pact,” but agreed to stop spying on Merkel personally.
Now Berlin is demanding an explanation from Washington about these latest spying allegations.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador on Friday to help clarify the case. The country’s top security official stepped up the pressure on Sunday.
“I expect everyone now to assist quickly in clearing up the accusations, and quick and clear statements, from the USA too,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told Bild newspaper.
According to the Financial Times, Merkel was informed of the allegations on Friday. She arrived in China over the weekend, where she is travelling with a delegation of business people. The German news magazine Spiegel reported that members of the delegation told media that Merkel was surprised and disappointed by the revelations.
According to the Local, the news came on the day the German inquiry heard evidence from former NSA employees-turned-whistle-blowers Thomas Drake and William Binney, who gave weight to serious allegations against the BND.
Drake said the BND had become a “vermiform appendix of the NSA,” referring to accusations it had been passing data on German citizens on to the American service, an act forbidden under Germany’s constitution.
“The silence of the BND is terrible,” Drake told the committee. “You shouldn’t wait for a German Edward Snowden to lift the veil.”
The repeated scandals of U.S. spying have stoked public anger. The FT reports a survey set for publication in today’s edition of Spiegel which showed 57 per cent of those polled wanted Germany to have greater “independence” from the U.S. Sixty-nine per cent said trust in the U.S. as an ally had faded.