July 10, 2014 (TSR) – The German government has ordered for the top CIA official in Berlin to leave the country immediately in response to America’s “failure to cooperate on resolving various allegations, starting with the NSA and up to the latest incidents” according to media reports.
Clemens Binniger, who chairs the parliamentary committee that oversees the intelligence services, told reporters Thursday that “the government has asked the representative of the U.S. intelligence agencies in Germany to leave the country as a reaction to the ongoing failure to help resolve the various allegations, starting with the NSA and up to the latest incidents.”
The decision comes in response to two reported cases of suspected U.S. spying in Germany and the year-long spat over reported NSA spying in Germany.
Germany has been stepping up pressure on the United States to clarify the situation. The issue threatens to strain German-US relations again after earlier reports that the National Security Agency spied on Germans, including on Mrs Merkel’s cellphone.
Just days after announcing the arrest of an intelligence officer of the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, who was found to have allegedly spied for the US Central Intelligence Agency for over two years, German authorities say they are investigating a second individual on suspicion of espionage.
Believed to be more serious than last week’s, German Federal prosecutors said yesterday that the individual in question is a German citizen and is under “initial suspicion of activity for an intelligence agency” of a foreign country. They refused to provide further information and added that an arrest had not yet been made.
But German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said on Wednesday that the subject of the investigation is suspected of spying for the United States. German prosecutors say the man is suspected of handing over 218 documents between 2012 and 2014. German media, without naming sources, have reported he was an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who says he sold his services to the U.S.
According to Süddeutsche’s sources, the second suspect works for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defense. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the unnamed individual specializes in “global security policy” and that he came under the suspicion of Germany’s military counterintelligence agency because of his “close proximity to alleged American intelligence operatives”.
German federal government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed later on Wednesday that Berlin had opened “investigations in two cases of suspected espionage, on very serious suspicions”. Seibert refused to elaborate, but added that police had raided a number of properties in the German capital.
But an unnamed former senior intelligence official, who has liaised extensively with the BND, protested to The Washington Post that “the Germans do lots and lots of stuff and don’t tell us everything they do”. As an example, he mentioned the issue of “gaps between the two countries in their commitment to efforts to block any nuclear weapons ambitions by Iran”.
Last Friday, the US Ambassador to Berlin, John B. Emerson, was summoned to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the first espionage case. He was at the ministry again yesterday, but it is not known whether that was connected to the second case. Peter Claussen, a spokesman at the US Embassy in Berlin, said Wednesday’s meeting had been scheduled on Tuesday at the Embassy’s request.
Germans are very angry
Meanwhile, various German leaders are livid and extremely disappointed.
Surveillance is a very sensitive issue in Germany, where the memory of the Nazi’s Gestapo secret police and Communist East Germany’s Stasi means the right to privacy is treasured.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners said Washington should remove any U.S. embassy staff involved and cease spying on its ally, Reuters reported.
Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told the Saarbrücker Zeitung that he failed to understand why Washington would want to spy on his country. “We talk to each other all the time, and no side keeps its views secret”, he told the Saarland-based newspaper. “The attempt to use conspiratorial tactics to find out about Germany’s position is not simply unseemly, it is unnecessary”.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said if the allegations of U.S. involvement were true, the case could lead to unspecified changes in the two countries’ “daily routine.”
“Should the suspicions be confirmed that American intelligence agencies were involved, then that’s also a political matter where one can’t just go back to the daily routine,” Steinmeier said during a visit to Mongolia, according to his office.
“The government takes these activities very seriously. It is essential and in the interest of the security of its citizens and its forces abroad for Germany to collaborate closely and trustfully with its western partners, especially the US“, Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said in an official statement.
“For over a year we have been asking questions and failed to get a response,” Burkhard Lischka of the Social Democratic party said.
As a result, Lischka said, “cracks” had started to appear in Germany’s relationship with America, The Guardian reported.
Andre Hahn, a Left party member on the supervisory panel, said that the recent string of spying cases had shown that “we wouldn’t put anything past Russia and China. But there’s blind trust in the US. This trust has now taken a knock.”
U.S. would never sign a commitment not to spy
In Berlin, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with Der Spiegel, posted online Monday, that the United States would never sign a commitment with any other nation not to spy on them.
“The U.S. will never sign a no-spy agreement (as demanded by Germany) with any other countries, not with you, not with Britain or Canada,” Clinton was quoted as saying. “But that doesn’t mean that the two countries and their intelligence agencies shouldn’t clarify what’s appropriate and what isn’t.”
After World War II, there was a pact called “The 5 Eyes” between the U.S., Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand, promising not to spy on each other. Clinton’s comment about that pact sound like a joke, CNN said.
“We obey that agreement. The CIA, National Security Agency doesn’t spy on Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, ever. That was a red line we never crossed. There may be an exception, I doubt it,” said CNN national security analyst and former CIA operative Bob Baer.
“That’s just a fact and Clinton is wrong”, he added.
It is important to note that Hillary Clinton ordered in July 2009 for American officials to spy on high ranking UN diplomats, including British representatives.
Following similar demands made by her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice for the George W. Bush Administration, the top secret cables obtained by Wikileaks revealed that Mrs Clinton, the Secretary of State, ordered diplomats to obtain DNA data – including iris scans and fingerprints – as well as credit card, frequent flier numbers, work schedules, email addresses, fax numbers, website identifiers and mobile numbers.
The U.S. wanted ‘biographic and biometric information on UN Security Council permanent representatives’ – including Russia, China, France and the UK, as well as the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon.
Clinton also wanted intelligence on Ban Ki-Moon’s ‘management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat’.
The secret ‘national human intelligence collection directive’ cables were sent to embassies and consulates in the UN, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
Moreover, the U.S.’s role in the Middle East peace process is discredited as missions in Israel, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were asked to gather biometric information ‘on key Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank’.
The demanded requests for IT related information – such as details of passwords, personal encryption keys and network upgrades – breaks all international laws and norms, raising suspicions that the U.S. was preparing to mount a hacking operation and threatens to derail any trust between the U.S. and many nations.
International treaties ban spying at the UN.
The 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities states: ‘The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable. The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action.’
Ban does not like confrontation and his office has been careful in its responses not to alienate the US, but in private there is much unhappiness. That the US spies on other diplomats and staff at the UN did not come as a surprise to senior UN staff – but the scale of the operation did, The Guardian reported.
Questions are being raised by former UN staff, such as Stephen Schlesinger, author of a book about the organisation, who said today that the spying was not a surprise – but what was, is the Obama administration’s continuation of a policy begun by the Bush administration.
“The fact that Hillary Clinton also signed off on these instructions, without modifying them, is startling to me. I would have thought a civil libertarian and liberal Democrat like Clinton (and Obama, too) would have stepped back after seeing these Bush rules and dropped them,” Schlesinger said.