Thursday, July 10, 2014

US-German Relations: Update--US, German Officials at All Levels Attempting to Reconcile Spy Scandal

According to The Boston Globe,German police on Wednesday (July 9) searched the Berlin office and apartment of a man suspected of being a spy, the federal prosecutor’s office said, deepening the espionage scandal that has damaged relations between the US and Germany.

The statement did not specify that the suspect had been spying for the United States, although a joint investigative reporting unit of the German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and two public broadcasters cited informed sources as saying that the suspect worked in the “military field” and had spied for Washington in the past.

If a second German national is found to have been spying for the Americans, it would deepen the trans-Atlantic quarrel that erupted over an employee of the German foreign intelligence service who is said to have been run by the CIA after volunteering information two years ago. 

That case, revealed last week, deepened the mistrust that has clouded relations between Washington and Berlin for more than a year after revelations of US intelligence activities in Germany, including eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

“The German government is in contact with the American side on many levels, the federal prosecutor and the investigators are continuing their work,” Seibert said. 

“If the accusations are proven true, then it is a very serious course of events which stands clearly in opposition to what the Chancellor understands as trustworthy cooperation between services and from partners,” Seibert added.

COMMENT: John Emerson, the US ambassador who was summoned to the German Foreign Ministry on July 4 to discuss last week’s spy revelations, was again in the ministry on Wednesday (July 9) and met Merkel’s foreign policy adviser, Christoph Heusgen, the US Embassy said. A spokesman said both meetings took place at the Americans’ request.

The newspaper Die Welt, which has well-placed sources in the German government, said the second suspect was a Bundeswehr soldier suspected of passing information to US military intelligence.

Norbert Röttgen, a senior member of Merkel’s conservative party and head of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said he had told US officials about the political damage the scandal is causing in Germany.

“At some point, the "no comment will not be enough,” Röttgen said by phone from Washington, where he and other lawmakers have been meeting with US officials. 

At the same time, he cautioned his German colleagues to understand Berlin and Washington have profoundly different views on the role of intelligence services, and not to let these differences permanently hurt otherwise strong ties.

“We should not let intelligence service stupidities be the measure of our relations because German-American relations are essential,” he said.