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.  



26 comments on “The U.S.-Germany Spy Scandal Just Got A Lot Worse”
  1. Why is this even in the public eye? Something very fishy here….

      1. Rickster says:

        Why wouldn’t this be in the public eye? It’s a story that should be reported. But, does anyone expect anything to change in U.S./German relations? Seriously? No.

        Frankly, I’d be surprised if Germany didn’t have its own spies trained on the U.S. Countries spy on each other. France is infamous for its industrial espionage. Hell, Belgium spies infamously assassinated a democratically elected head of state to protect business interests.

        Gray hats run the world.

    1. califax says:

      It’s almost impossible to keep house raids a secret in germany. And I have the feeling that this arrest was a fast decision to ride along the already existing story. Having the second traitor blow up when the public just settled about the first one might have been worse than having both in one run.

      The real problem here isn’t that traitors and american spy operations exist. I bet if we could find and arrest all foreign agency informers in berlin, the prices for office space would hit bottom. The real problem is the poisening effect on public opinion and leftwing politicians, because there never is a break when it’s “alright already”.

  2. mattw0699 says:

    Why is the US spying on Germany?

    Because with friends like Germany, who needs enemies. I’m thinking that most Germans would have trouble answering this question: Who do you like better – America or Russia? They would want to say Russia, but should they admit the truth?

    1. califax says:

      Don’t fall for the Kremlin’s PR-campaign as some journalists did until the St.Petersburg network became known. Germans don’t want war, don’t want to lose jobs over unknown foreign countries, an don’t want the inconvenience of a second cold war. That doesn’t mean they like Putin.

      With the feelings towards america – it’s the effect of a very effective campaign that pulls the nationalist nerves of both left and right. And during the Kohl chancellorship, america was often abused as the alleged role model for ill-informed government projects. That left many germans ask themselves if we couldn’t have our own ideas. The current russian (and left-wing) campaign builds on that.

      (Die spinnen doch, die Römer!)

    2. Ulrich Schilling says:

      >>> I’m thinking that most Germans would have trouble answering this question: Who do you like better – America or Russia?

      I am a 63 year old German (married to a US-American wife)
      And YES; you are “thinking”, you are not “knowing”.
      So… my advice: Do some learning!


      >>> America or Russia?
      I guess, you meant “U.S.A. or Russia”, correct?

  3. dougr100 says:

    When has it ever been a bad idea to keep an eye on the Germans?

    1. Ulrich Schilling says:

      Maybe “Now”

      Another question: Who should keep an eye on the USA ??

  4. masterman says:

    It’s not as if US spying on its allies is a deep dark secret. One knows of a country generally counted as an American partner whose security services are continually rooting out officials and officers from its military and defense establishments. But they are never offficially charged on espionage for the United States. They are tried in secret sessions and if stories do make the media, it is said they were convicted of drug dealing, embezzlement, or whatever. They serve two or three years jail and are then released to go off to their meager CIA pension in America.
    It is nice to see Germany calling the United States out on this.

    1. califax says:

      There are no secret trials in the german judicial system. If a traitor is caught, it’s always out in the open. And it’s almost impossible to hide federal house searches and arrests from the press. More cover than the final stage of a soccer world cup is hard to think of in germany.

  5. Sean Phillips says:

    One begins to wonder if Germany is the double-dealing ally in Gellman’s story, and if so, did the docs contain enough info to identify sources? That might also tend to explain the heavy intel targeting.

    1. califax says:

      The intel targeting started years (actually decades) before snowden. Check for time travels. 😉

    2. uwe says:

      So it is our own fault that the US has to spy on us, isn’t it? And in the end history will prove that we have deserved it, right? And when countries move closer to Moscow, this is just because they are evil and not because of a failed US policy that alienates and angers the allies you still have? Few enough, btw.
      Please compare our reaction to the US spying on us to the US reaction to Pollard.

      1. masterman says:

        Pollard was a case of an American citizen employed by an American intelligence body spying for an American ally. Not the same thing as a German spying on Germany for America. Can’t you see the difference?

  6. fnn says:

    Good news if Germany starts to develop a little independence. Though I really doubt that will happen.

  7. This here from the Washington Post is indicative of the problem:

    The Germans clearly have an angle in doing this but the US should have never allowed this situation to come about. It really is a messy, amateur state of affairs. I am also surprised to read, again, that Obama did not know about this matter. This is not a partisan matter. This is the US President being on top of his job:

    1. ewmbrsfca says:

      If it is so that Obama did not know about this matter, then I would think that this is a bigger scandal. Obviously, the military-industrial spy behemoth has completely morphed into its own state within the state. Both Administration and Congress appear to have lost control, and the genie is out of the bottle, never to get back in it again.

  8. califax says:

    As I understand the breaking news, the CIA CO Germany got his ticket home today. Or, who is the central chief of intel operations in a country?

  9. uwe says:

    John, a “referent” is not a consultant but the rank of a civilian upper to top level manager or subject matter expert in a ministry. And of course a Beamter.

    1. 20committee says:

      Good eye, danke!

  10. MarqueG says:

    You’re welcome, Germany! The incompetent in the White House is the guy you wanted, und nun haben wir den Salat. He was the anti-Bush antidote the German establishment yearned for, the celebrity leftist adored by the international post-modern, Old-European community. Bitte sehr!

    To gift wrap this histrionically overwrought scandal (typisch deutsch!), let us ask ourselves what an American spooking mission to Germany would hope to unearth: That German defense is woefully underfunded?

    Well, I think Matt Continetti has the obvious answer: America is trying to learn how to be the New Old Europe:

  11. panvoy1 says:

    Looks like the Germans have finally tired of occupation. Hopefully they’ll sing on with Putin and rebuild their civilization while a bankrupt and perverted America melts down.

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