The XX Committee

The U.S.-Germany Spy Scandal Just Got A Lot Worse

Germany has been in an uproar since the arrest last week of a thirty-one year-old employee of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) who stands accused of spying for the United States. He reportedly began passing over 200 secret documents to the CIA back in 2012, receiving 25,000 Euros as payment. He was caught when he offered his services to the Russians as well, an email which German counterintelligence intercepted. While it cannot be denied that allied spy services do in fact spy on each other, this seems an unusually flagrant operation, given the already parlous state of U.S-German relations over intelligence matters.

The reaction to all this in Germany has been highly negative, since this scandal comes on top of months of allegations of NSA espionage against Germany, care of the defector Edward Snowden. This has become a major political issue between Washington, DC, and Berlin, and the revelation that a BND staffer was betraying secrets to the CIA has only worsened the situation. Reactions have been swift and harsh. Germany’s interior minister called for a new “360-degree approach” to intelligence, meaning treating the United States as a serious counterintelligence threat to Germany, on a par with Russia and China, while the justice minister hinted at criminal proceedings against the U.S., observing that “American intelligence services are obsessed with surveillance.” President Joachim Gauck was blunt: “If it actually happened that way — that a service probably employed one of our employees from a service in that manner, then indeed one must say: enough is enough, for once.”

And now things have gotten considerably worse. The German media today is filled with reports that a second German official is under investigation for espionage on behalf of the United States. The suspect is a member of the Bundeswehr, the German military, who is reported to have come on the radar of the military’s counterintelligence arm (MAD) due to his regular unreported meetings with U.S. intelligence personnel. Experts have already judged the case “more serious” than last week’s BND scandal. The soldier’s residence and office have been searched by police and prosecutors are preparing to act.

The timing of all this, given the fragility of U.S.-German relations on security matters, literally could not be worse. Already many Germans were wondering what sort of ally the United States actually is. In reaction to last week’s espionage debacle, the Left Party’s chair Katja Kipping stated, “There were enough apologies on the phone” — meaning the White House reaction to last year’s NSA brouhaha — “Now Obama should quickly get on a plane to Berlin and eat humble pie.” One wonders what will be required now to smooth all this over.

Watch this space, more is coming …

UPDATE [10 Jul]: German media, which is filled with denunciations of U.S. espionage by politicians across Germany’s political spectrum, is today reporting that the Bundeswehr espionage suspect, who has yet to be arrested, though is considered to be under “suspicion of being involved as an agent in intelligence activities,” worked in the MoD’s Policy Department and is reported to have been in charge of International Defense Cooperation.  


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