Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Germany, US: Senior Obama Staffers Meet in Berlin to Discuss Eavesdropping Protocols

According to Reuters, Washington and Berlin were scheduled to meet on Tuesday (July 22) to set up protocols to address disputes over intelligence-gathering that have soured relations between the two close allies and resulted in Germany's expulsion of the CIA station chief in Berlin.

The initiative followed talks in Berlin between top aides of President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel to address anger at US surveillance practices disclosed by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

Obama's chief of staff Denis McDonough and homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco met in Berlin with Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, and her intelligence coordinator, Guenter Heiss.

A White House statement said the meetings were prompted by a recent telephone conversation about intelligence matters between Obama and Merkel. The advisers had "intensive talks on the state of bilateral relations and future cooperation," including intelligence matters, the statement said.

COMMENT: As two of the world's most formidable leaders, it is clearly in the interest of both the US and Germany to formulate guidelines together to prevent hostile intelligence efforts on the part of both nations.

My biggest foreign policy concern is what caused Washington to distrust Berlin to begin with, which the German government should insist in knowing.

Understandably, national interests between allies occasionally do conflict, yet Berlin really needs to know what component of the Obama Administration suddenly found it necessary to eavesdrop on Berlin's sensitive discussions on a number of occasions.

It is hoped that Berlin and Washington can once again be trusted allies as they have been since 1945.

"Mr. McDonough and Mr. Altmaier agreed to set up a structured dialogue to address concerns of both sides and establish guiding principles as the basis for continued and future cooperation," the White House said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said the decision earlier this month to ask the CIA station chief to leave was prompted by "a break of trust" between Berlin and Washington. 

Earlier, evidence leaked by Snowden showed that Chancellor Merkel's personal cellphone had been targeted for surveillance.