Germany ups pressure on Washington over spy claim

DPA Beijing/Berlin | Updated on November 25, 2017

Berlin stepped up pressure on Monday on Washington over allegations that a German intelligence service employee spied for the United States, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying the case threatened to undermine trust between the two allies.

“If the reports are correct, it would be a serious case,” Merkel told a joint press conference with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing.

She said the incident “would represent for me a clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners.” The latest spy claim comes after a string of intelligence scandals over the past year has rattled US-German ties.

The White House would not confirm the reports that a German citizen arrested last week had been spying for the US. Spokesman Josh Earnest declined to discuss the matter because it is part of an ongoing German legal process and deals with intelligence matters.

“The relationship that the United States has with Germany is incredibly important. This is a very close partnership that we have on a range of security issues, including some intelligence issues,” he said.

“That partnership is built on respect, and it’s built on decades of cooperation and shared values. All of those things are high priorities, not just to this administration but to this country. So we’re going to work with the Germans to resolve this situation appropriately.” Merkel’s ministers on Monday roundly criticised the US over allegations about the activities of its surveillance authorities, including the National Security Agency (NSA).

“The NSA’s surveillance mania must come to an end at last,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said. “The Americans have the greatest interest in helping to clear up the case. Only then will they be able to regain lost trust.” German government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz refused to comment in detail on developments in the spying affair, saying that Berlin was waiting until the country’s prosecutor-general’s office had completed a report on the allegations before deciding its next action.

The latest allegations about a German intelligence agent follow a stream of reports, sourced to former US intelligence officer Edward Snowden, about US spying in Germany, including revelations last year that the NSA had tapped Merkel’s mobile phone, which the prosecutor’s office is also investigating.

No effect on trade deal

Despite the latest controversy, Wirtz insisted that German and US relations remain friendly, describing Washington as an important partner. She said Berlin saw no reason to halt negotiations with Washington for a US-European Union trade deal.

“They are not in question or in doubt,” she said. “The federal government believes that a free trade agreement is important and necessary.” The US ambassador in Berlin was summoned to the Foreign Office on Friday in Berlin after the prosecutor’s office confirmed that a 31-year-old Munich man had been arrested on Wednesday. This was accompanied by media reports that the suspect had passed about 218 documents to US authorities over the last two years and been paid €25,000 ($34,000).

The weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung am Sonntag reported that the man had met with a US agent in Vienna after making contact with the US embassy in Berlin.

The newspaper reported that the suspect, who is understood to have worked for Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BND, had also made contact with Russian authorities.

Wirtz declined to provide any further information about the suspect’s job in the BND.

Published on July 08, 2014

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