Angela Merkel has been tough on U.S. intelligence agencies, ever since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) scope of surveillance. Last year the ex-contractor for the NSA admitted that the U.S. had even gone so far as to tap the chancellor’s personal cell phone. Perhaps the NSA was listening when prosecutors called Angela Merkel, immediately after an alleged double agent was arrested.
Before the German chancellor visited the U.S. capital in early May, she spoke for Europe when she said that relations were strained deeply due to the severe breach of trust caused by the NSA’s snooping. However, other European nations were very critical of her upon return, stating that she was overly soft on the U.S. government. Furthermore, Merkel was reproached for not getting the U.S. to sign a no-spy agreement. Many were not surprised however, as President Obama had previously said in a speech that he would not apologize for spying.
The latest rift in trust stems from a 31-year-old Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) (the U.S. equivalent of a Federal Intelligence Service agent,) who has been accused of being an informant for the U.S. government. Since 2012, he allegedly turned over more than 200 documents to the U.S. for a profit of over $34,000. He was suspected of spying for Russia initially, but after media reports claimed that he he had contacted the U.S. intelligence by emailing the Berlin embassy, it was proposed that if he was a real spy, it was for the Americans. The mid level employee was described as “amateurish” by Constanze Stelzenmüller of the think tank, German Marshall Fund, for the basic and traceable way he was supposed to have contacted American intelligence agencies.
Angela Merkel was not the only person called after the supposed double agent got arrested, a parliamentary committee was also contacted. The chancellor said that if the allegations are true that she would be at a disagreement on how trusting foreign relations should be conducted, and that there would have to be a political response to this new rift in intelligence relations. Steffen Seibert a spokesperson for the committee, Co-chair of the parliamentary committee Christian Flisek, social democratic parliamentary party leader Thomas Oppermann and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier all had separate statements that came to one conclusion. If the apparent breach turns out to be true, it would be an attack on the German Parliament freedom and democratic institution and the result would be a loss of all trust and have further political ramifications.
Heiko Maas, the German justice minister said that the U.S. must follow the rules like everyone else, including their intelligence agencies, and if they do not they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Stelzenmüller claims this sentiment is utterly unserviceable, but that it does go to illustrate the extent of the trust issues between the U.S. and Germany. However, former NSA employees said that after 9/11 the BND might as well have been an “appendage” of the NSA, and Professor Michael Woffsohn of the German Armed Forces University went on to call the furor “naive” as it is not uncommon for allies to spy on one another. Thus far much of the situation has been speculative in nature, the only thing that is certain is that a person who claims to be a double agent was arrested and Angela Merkel received a call.
By Eddie Mejia