Germany demands rapid answers from US on latest spying affair

DPA Berlin | Updated on November 25, 2017

US has made clear that it would not sign a no-spying agreement that Germany has been asking for.

German President Joachim Gauck on Sunday warned of further strains in German-US relations after the arrest of a man alleged to have passed documents to Washington.

If suspicions are confirmed that an employee of the German intelligence service had spied for the United States, then it’s time to draw a line, he said.

“That’s enough of this now,” he said.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called the situation “grave.” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier demanded that nothing more be swept under the carpet.

German officials on Thursday confirmed the arrest of a 31-year-old German man on espionage charges. Sources told dpa that he has admitted to stealing 218 documents and sending them on to US intelligence officials in exchange for €25,000 ($40,000 dollars.) The US has issued no official reaction. “We continue to decline comment,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokesman for the National Security Council.

Germany regularly swaps intelligence with the US, but the relationship has been strained by revelations in the past year by Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor who received asylum in Russia, that the US National Security Agency (NSA) makes no exceptions for German citizens when it monitors email and phone traffic worldwide.

Speaking to the German ARD television network, de Maiziere said, “I expect a rapid, clear explanation from the United States of America.” Steinmeier said that if the media reports are true, “then we are not talking about insignificant things.” It is in the US’ own interest to reveal what it knows, he said.

Last week, the White House made clear it would not sign a no-spying agreement that Germany has been asking for.

“We’re not going to have a no-spy agreement,” deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said in response to a question from dpa, during a White House briefing with foreign media. “We don’t have no-spy agreements with any country.” The US in fact has agreements with several countries not to spy on them: Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Rhodes said it would “just take time and a healing process through dialogue” to address the issue, but that the US had to find a balance between fresh limits on espionage and the need to gather intelligence.

Germany is still smarting at revelations, based on documents from US whistleblower Edward Snowden, that Merkel’s phone was monitored for years by the National Security Agency.

A deep rift remains between the US perspective that spying is no sin and the German view that states must abstain from the unsupervised eavesdropping practiced by fascist and communist dictatorships in Germany.

Published on July 07, 2014

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