Merkel concerned at ‘serious’ spy allegations

German intelligence agent admits selling classified documents to CIA

 German chancellor Angela Merkel: “If the reports are correct it would be a serious case”. Photograph Feng Li/Getty Images

German chancellor Angela Merkel: “If the reports are correct it would be a serious case”. Photograph Feng Li/Getty Images


German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of a “serious” breach of trust with the US over reports that the CIA bou- ght classified information from a German intelligence agent.

German federal justice minister Heiko Maas attacked the US for its “surveillance obsession” yesterday after a 31-year-old employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND) admitted selling more than 200 documents for €25,000.

Authorities in Germany are still examining the allegations in the BND employee’s confession, in particular who bought the documents from the agency’s foreign division.

The allegations became public last Friday but Dr Merkel had declined to comment in public until yesterday at a press conference during a trip to China. “If the reports are correct it would be a serious case,” said Dr Merkel alongside Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang.

“If the allegations are true, it would be for me a clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting co-operation between agencies and partners.”

The BND spying claims follow revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the agency had spied on Dr Merkel’s mobile phone.

A Bundestag committee is investigating that and other Snowden allegations, such as claims the US embassy in Berlin operates a listening post on its roof to eavesdrop on mobile phone communications in the German capital.

Despite repeated demands from German politicians, the White House and state department have as yet declined to comment on those claims, nor have they commented in detail on the latest allegations.

A spokesman for US president Barack Obama said Washington would “work with the Germans to solve this situation in an appropriate manner”.

‘360-degree view’

German interior minister Thomas de Maizière reportedly suggested to officials in his ministry, which oversees foreign and domestic intelligence agencies, that it would be appropriate to have a “360-degree view”. This was taken by intelligence analysts to suggest Berlin will end its reported practice of not spying on the US and other Nato partners.

The latest spying revelations overshadowed the start of a trip by German MPs to Washington yesterday. Jürgen Hardt, co-ordinator of transatlantic relations, reiterated German calls for a “clear explanation” from the US over the claims.

Amid demands for the expulsion of US intelligence officers posing as diplomats, German intelligence officials admit they have little leverage with the US. Calls for a no-spy agreement with the US after the Snowden allegations have gone nowhere.