Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
Germany is again complaining about possible U.S. intelligence activities on its soil. The boys at BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) or Federal Intelligence Service, found a suspected double agent on their payroll working for U.S. intelligence. In what appears as a sloppy handling traced directly to the U.S. embassy, the German government accuses Washington of obtaining some 218 documents through one yet unnamed 31 year old, mid-level intelligence official (an employ in custody) who stole and sold information about Germany’s parliamentary inquiry into the NSA.
Interestingly, the information was not even sensitive and naturally the U.S. would be curious at what Germany is doing; especially in regards to closed Parliamentary committee hearings. Basically, Germany is accusing the Americans of looking over their shoulder here in a friendly spat of curiosity and they demand clarification in the matter. Officially, however, they have not names the foreign power in connection to the arrest, while they have summoned Ambassador John B. Emerson.
“It would be an unheard of attack on the freedom of parliament and our democratic institutions in general,” said the SPD parliamentary chief, Thomas Oppermann. “The US now has an obligation to clarify what happened.”
That is one of the more ridiculous political statements you will find playing to the domestic German public outrage. The German intelligence agency spies on Congress and other “democratic” institutions like the UN on a regular basis. That is what foreign intelligence agencies do. Germany has been implemented as a partner in many intelligence and counterterreorism joint efforts involving the NSA.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere was quoted by Bild newspaper: “I expect everyone now to assist quickly in clearing up the accusations — and quick and clear statements, from the USA too.”
Germany has a lot of nerve, considering that the host of 9/11 terrorists that killed 3,000 Americans were rooted right in their state. The best they can do is to wildly exaggerate a minor breach of trust and tie it into a larger issue presented to their populace: They cannot counter U.S. intelligence efforts that reveal what they are doing. The U.S. is gathering information too, not trying to supplant their regime.
The so-called “double” is in reality just an informant to a close and friendly investigative ally. It is uncomfortable in discovery but the nature of the unofficially shared information was harmless.
Originally, the BND is reported to have suspected to Russian Intelligence in the breach. The fact that turned out not to be the case and put them on the trail to the U.S. Embassy is unfortunate but once there, the more political elements inflated the informant activity.
This latest charge comes months after ex-NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked information that the U.S. was electronically monitoring European leadership that included Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as the German people. While in custody, the intelligence official cited as the double is suspected of a two-year long relationship with the unknown U.S. intelligence agency.
Unfortunately the informant is not just Germany’s problem and better ties with are a top priority for Washington in addressing regional and international interest. In addition to pandering to a domestic audience, these American spy leaks can also be intended to damage U.S. Germany relations by outside actors. Of note are the continuing efforts of Moscow to divide a shaky U.S.-EU diplomatic solidarity. Snowden is still presently being used in Russia and has in the past released leaked information at critical times to upset American-EU diplomatic efforts to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine.