Germany orders US intelligence chief out of country
Chancellor Angela Merkel says spying on allies is ‘a waste of energy’ given other issues
German chancellor Angela Merkel and finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble have been speaking about claims of US spying on German interests after the arrest of a man on suspicion of working for a foreign intelligence agency. Mr Schaeuble said the story was so stupid that one can only cry at the foolishness of it. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/Reuters.
Germany’s federal government has ordered the US intelligence station chief at the Berlin embassy to leave the country - before he is expelled - after a second double agent was uncovered inside the German government.
Investigators in Berlin have interviewed a man working for the defence ministry on suspicion of co-operation with US intelligence - a week after an officer in the BND foreign intelligence service said he had sold classified files to the CIA.
German officials have now upped the ante in the spy affair to demonstrate their frustration at perceived stone-walling by Washington. A year after the first revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, German officials say they are still no wiser as to how the US spies on Germany -- or why.
“The representative of the US intelligence services in the Embassy of the United States was ordered to leave Germany,” Steffen Seibert, government spokesman, said in a statement.
“The request was made in light of the ongoing investigation by the chief federal prosecutor and questions that have been raised for months about the activities of US intelligence services in Germany.”
The US embassy has declined to respond to the announcement, just as it has not commented on the most recent double agent claims.
The first alleged agent, a 31 year-old living and working with the foreign intelligence service (BND) in Munich, reportedly contacted the US embassy in Berlin via email with an offer to sell documents. He was arrested after making a similar offer to the Russians, telling German investigators last Wednesday that his contact person was a CIA official posing as a diplomat in the US embassy.
The BND official said he met the American agent several times in Vienna, receiving €25,000 for handing over 218 classified files.
Reports of a second double agent emerged yesterday when Germany investigators confirmed they had questioned an employee of the defence ministry “under suspicion of secret agent activity” and seized computers and storage devices in a search of his home.
Earlier today, German chancellor Angela Merkel said she viewed spying on allies as a “waste of energy”.
“We have so many problems, we should focus on the important things,” said Dr Merkel, her most outspoken remarks to date on the unfolding scandal.
Senior Berlin sources said the German leader was “not amused by the revelations and frustrated by the political fall-out.
The parliamentary committee that oversees the work of Germany’s intelligence agencies met yesterday to hear details of the two reported spy cases.
Germany has said it doesn’t spy on its allies and considers it unacceptable for its allies to spy on German government officials and institutions.
After a week airing their frustrations with the US in private, senior German politicians are now moving into the public.
Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a two-times interior minister, criticised the practice of recruiting German officials for creating political tension disproportionate to the intelligence gain.
Mr Schäuble told a television discussion on Wednesday night that the US double agent claims, if true, were “so stupid that one can only weep at the foolishness of it all”.