Germany asks top US spy to leave country over NSA surveillance revelations
By End the Lie
In what is the most significant escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Germany over NSA spying, the German government asked the top American spy in Berlin to leave the country on Thursday.
“The representative of the U.S. intelligence services at the United States embassy has been asked to leave Germany,” Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said in a statement.
“The request occurred against the backdrop of the ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors as well as the questions that were posed months ago about the activities of U.S. intelligence agencies in Germany,” Seibert said. “The government takes the matter very seriously.”
German media said the man being investigated Wednesday worked for the German Defense Ministry in an international security policy department.
German military counterintelligence became suspicious of the man because of his close contact with alleged U.S. spies, according to AP. This comes after a 31-year-old German intelligence employee was arrested last week on suspicion of spying for foreign powers since 2012.
On Wednesday, German federal prosecutors said that police raided properties in the Berlin area on “initial suspicion of activity for an intelligence agency.” Later, Seibert said that the case involved “a very strong suspicion” of espionage.
Thursday’s move is the most dramatic response yet in what is now a yearlong dispute over the NSA spying on the cellphone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Germany sees the latest revelations as part of “a pattern of American disrespect and interference in a nation that has cherished traditions of privacy,” AP reports.
The German move is seen as extraordinary by U.S. officials, with one anonymous former official saying that he couldn’t remember a time in recent history in which an intelligence official was asked to leave a country.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest wouldn’t comment on the German decision but said that the U.S. takes intelligence matters “very seriously,” according to AP.
“I don’t want you to come away from this exchange thinking we take this matter lightly,” Earnest said. He added that Germany and the U.S. still have a strong partnership.
Seibert said that the German government takes the incidents very seriously as well.
“It remains vital for Germany, in the interest of the security of its citizens and its forces abroad, to cooperate closely and trustfully with western partners, in particular with the USA,” Seibert said. “To do so, however, mutual trust and openness are necessary. The Federal Government continues to be ready for this and expects the same from its closest partners.”
Germany attempted to be a part of the non-espionage pact between the U.S., Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but their attempts were blocked by both the Obama administration and the George W. Bush administration.