Friday, July 4, 2014

Global Impact: Chancellor Merkel Notified of German Citizen Arrested Over Alleged Spying for US

According to The Associated Press, Germany summoned the US ambassador in Berlin on Friday (July 4) following the arrest of a German national reportedly to have spied for the United States, heightening friction between the two countries over alleged US eavesdropping in Germany.

US Ambassador John Emerson was called in "in connection with an investigation by the federal prosecutor," the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Ambassador Emerson "was asked to help in the swift clarification" of the case, it added.

Federal prosecutors say a 31-year-old German man was arrested Wednesday (July 2) on suspicion of spying for foreign intelligence services. They did not identify the suspect or the intelligence service involved.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that Chancellor Angela Merkel been personally informed of the arrest. He declined to comment on reports by Der Spiegel magazine and the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the man worked for Germany's foreign intelligence service, known by its German acronym BND.

The newspapers, which didn't identify their sources, said the man was suspected of passing on information about a German parliamentary committee investigating the activities of US and other intelligence agencies in Germany.

Seibert said members of the parliamentary panel had also been informed of the arrest. 

COMMENT: Reports that the National Security Agency spied on German citizens, including on Merkel's cellphone, have caused friction between Berlin and Washington since they were first published last year, based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Martina Renner, a member of the opposition Left Party on the parliamentary panel, said the case indicated that anyone who examined Snowden's revelations in detail was subject to scrutiny by US intelligence agencies. Renner's panel heard testimony Thursday (July 3) from two former NSA employees, Thomas Drake and William Binney.

In his testimony, Drake claimed that cooperation between the NSA and Germany's BND greatly increased after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. He described the German spy agency as an "appendage" of the NSA.

Seibert said Merkel discussed "foreign policy matters" in a telephone conversation with President Barack Obama late Thursday (July 3). He said the conversation focused on Ukraine, but would not confirm whether the arrest of the German was discussed.

Renner's panel heard testimony on Thursday (July 3) from two former NSA employees, Thomas Drake and William Binney. See below: