New spying row hurts US relationship with Germany
Publish Date: Jul 10, 2014
New spying row hurts US relationship with Germany
This photo taken on October 29, 2013 shows a view of the US embassy in front of Berlin Parliament building (the Reichstag). PHOTO/AFP
  • mail
  • img

WASHINGTON - Fresh spying accusations are undermining US efforts to mend fences with Germany, only two weeks after both allies launched a diplomatic initiative to overcome the NSA surveillance row.

The White House on Wednesday stayed mum on the alleged espionage, as German lawmakers vented their anger during a visit to Washington and criticized perceived indifference on this issue in the United States.

"We find that our interlocutors have very little awareness of the problem," Norbert Roettgen, chairman of Germany's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told journalists after talks with members of Congress and national security officials.

Roettgen complained that his delegation did not receive "answers" about the recent spying scandal, warning that the US intelligence activity in Germany could lead to a "frozen conflict" in the transatlantic relationship.

Fellow lawmaker Niels Annen deplored that the new accusations undermined "good intentions" behind the so-called cyber dialogue, a diplomatic forum Germany and the US launched on June 27 to address their disagreements over intelligence gathering and data protection.

"We had the NSA surveillance programs, we had the tapping of Merkel's cell phone and now this spy story comes on top of it," Annen told AFP.

German authorities on Wednesday confirmed the second possible spying case in less than a week after investigators questioned a man who, local media reported, is a German military employee accused of passing secrets to the United States.

The case follows Friday's news that a 31-year-old German BND intelligence service operative had been arrested two days earlier, suspected of having sold over 200 documents to the CIA.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated that he was "not in a position to confirm or deny or even comment on reports related to reported intelligence activities."

But he told journalists that "a couple of conversations" between German and US diplomats as well as law enforcement and intelligence officials had taken place "to try to appropriately resolve some of the circumstances."

Merkel had confirmed earlier that her intelligence services coordinator spoke by phone with CIA chief John Brennan, and a senior German foreign ministry official on Wednesday met for a second time in five days with US ambassador John B. Emerson.

Former senior executive of the US National Security Agency (NSA), Thomas Drake arrives at the German parliamentary committee investigating the extent of surveillance by NSA and its partners in Berlin. PHOTO/AFP

No Merkel-Obama call imminent

A phone call between Merkel and President Barack Obama on the spying row was not scheduled "at this point," Earnest said.

Some experts expressed doubt that the efforts behind closed doors would be enough to cool tensions with Germany.

"I think the only way to solve it is for Obama to say something but I don't think he can or will," Jack Janes of the American Institute of Contemporary German Studies told AFP.

"That leaves this either for the State Department to try to sooth feelings or in the circle of legislators on both sides of the Atlantic, and there is not much interest in the Congress to engage here," he added, predicting that "the whole thing will fester for a long time to come."

While there was concern in the White House at damage to the vital US-Germany relationship, there also appeared to be some private impatience among some officials at the way the Germans had handled the episode.

Previously, and privately, top officials have argued that many nations conduct espionage operations against one another in the normal course of business, and that the US government is a prime target itself, arguing in effect that everyone is fair game.

Karen Donfried, a former senior director for European affairs on Obama's National Security Council, cautioned that "we still do not know about the truth" of the recent spying allegations.

But she acknowledged that there was "still a great deal of fallout from last year's NSA disclosures."

The United States sees Germany as "a very important ally" on economic issues as well as foreign policy issues like Ukraine or Afghanistan, Donfried, who now leads the Washington-based think tank German Marshall Fund, told AFP.

"It seems to me that we don't want to narrow the relationship just" to the issue of spying, she added.


The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Burundi risks genocide, US envoy warns
BURUNDI is at risk of genocide, warns Thomas Perriello, US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, days after President Barack Obama slapped sanctions...
Refugee crisis tests Sweden
Aneta Moura, who emigrated to Sweden from Greece 43 years ago, says the last ethnic Swede has moved off her street in Malmo's Rosengard neighbourhood and youths with nothing to do hang out on the streets at all hours....
What-Would-Magufuli-Do goes viral on twitter
Just a few weeks into office, new Tanzanian President Magufuli Pombe is trending on social network twitter....
Syrian paper recounts rescue of downed Russian pilot
Syrian special forces launched an operation "behind enemy lines" to rescue the surviving crew member of a Russian warplane downed by Turkey, Syria's Al-Watan newspaper reported on Thursday....
US Republicans move to dump Trump
Many say the populist crazy talk is typical of the White House primaries, but Republican frontrunner Donald Trump's increasingly incendiary remarks are leading some conservatives to brand him a "fascist" and party rivals to ramp up attacks against him....
IS claims deadly Tunisia bus bombing
The Islamic State group on Wednesday claimed the bombing of a presidential guard bus in the Tunisian capital that killed at least 12 people....
Is Uganda ready for the pope's visit?
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter