Saturday, July 5, 2014

Germany/US: Update--Arrest of Apparent German Double-Agent, 31, Does Not Bode Well for Washington

According to The New York Times, in the latest development in the contentious controversy between Berlin and Washington over unchecked electronic and human intrusions by the US Government, a German national, 31, was arrested this week who potentially may emerge as a double-agent working for the US.

US Ambassador John Emerson was summoned to the Foreign Office in Berlin and urged to help German officials who called a swift clarification of the case.

Even after Washington got its "hand caught in the cookie jar" repeatedly over its violation of Germany's privacy rights, not to mention

The arrest came as Washington and Berlin were trying to put to rest a year of strains over the National Security Agency’s monitoring of Germans’ electronic data, including eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, just months after the collapse on the part of Berlin to negotiate a "no-spy" accord with The White House.

While the White House and US intelligence officials refused to comment on the arrest, one senior American official said that reports in the German news media that the 31-year-old man under arrest had been working for the United States for at least two years “threatened to undo all the repair work” the two sides had reportedly attempted to reconcile of late.

COMMENT: Media reports said that the mid-level employee was spying for Russia.

Seemingly, though, the arrested German told his interrogators that he had been working for the US for "some time."

Chancellor Merkel was informed of the case on Thursday (July 3), her spokesman said, just before she spoke to President Obama by telephone. 

If the man had been spying for the United States for two years, as the German news reports suggest, his recruitment could have predated the disclosures by NSA contractor Edward  Snowden, and the long-running tapping of Ms. Merkel's mobile.

In conversations with German officials over the past year, the Obama Administration has made it clear that its commitment extends only to Chancellor Merkel herself, and not other German officials. 

The German Parliament is conducting an inquiry into NSA's activities in the country, and it heard its first testimony on Thursday (July 3) from two Americans who formerly worked for NSA. 

Part of the Thursday hearing was conducted in closed session after one of the NSA witnesses, William E. Binney, said he would be discussing important secret information.

On Thursday, the suspect appeared before a federal court in Karlsruhe, where the federal prosecutor’s office is located, and was ordered held “on urgent suspicion” of unauthorized intelligence activities, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of Parliament from the Green Party who sits on both the intelligence oversight body and the NSA inquiry panel, said he had “no reason to deny” the published reports about the spy case. Yet, he and the head of the inquiry panel, Patrick Sensburg of the Christian Democratic Party, each counseled caution.