Friday, October 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Germany expels CIA station chief

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described spying on allies as "a waste of energy." (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described spying on allies as "a waste of energy." (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
WASHINGTON - The German government ordered the CIA's top officer in Berlin to leave the country Thursday in an extraordinary escalation of a conflict between the two allies over American espionage.

The move amounts to a high-profile expression of German anger over alleged CIA operations uncovered by German investigators in recent weeks, as well as continued public outrage over the exposure last year of widespread U.S. surveillance programs whose targets included Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A spokesman for the German government, Steffen Seibert, confirmed the expulsion of the CIA station chief in a statement that made clear Berlin regards U.S. espionage efforts as a breach of trust.

"The representative of the U.S. intelligence services at the Embassy of the United States of America has been requested to leave Germany," Seibert said. Continued cooperation would require "mutual trust and openness," Seibert added. "The Federal Government continues to be ready for this and expects the same from its closest partners."

The decision means that the United States will be forced to withdraw an officer who oversees U.S. spying programs in Germany but also serves as the main point of contact with German intelligence services - exchanging information on subjects ranging from terrorist plots to Iranian nuclear ambitions.

In ordering the CIA station chief to leave, Germany resorted to a form of retaliation that is occasionally employed by determined espionage adversaries - such as the United States and Russia - but rarely by such a close ally.

"I can't recall ever getting to the point where a friendly service actually ejected somebody," said John Rizzo, who spent more than three decades at the CIA and served as its acting general counsel. "The Germans must feel compelled to do this for political reasons because there are certainly ways to convey one's displeasure without taking this kind of overt step."

Former officials described the outgoing CIA station chief as an agency veteran, a German speaker who has held a series of overseas posts as well as assignments at headquarters in the agency's European division.

Before ordering him out, Germany "had to make a calculation of what they were going to lose - they get a substantial amount of intelligence from us," said a senior former U.S. intelligence official who worked closely with Berlin and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "There will be people in the [U.S.] intelligence community who will want to say, "That's it.' "

Former U.S. officials said the agency pulled back on certain spying operations last year amid concern about the fallout from the Edward Snowden leaks. At the same time, the former officials said, the latest arrest and raids indicate that Germany has stepped up its defenses and efforts to root out U.S. spies.

Even before the expulsion, U.S. officials said espionage-related frictions with Germany had hurt diplomatic relations with an ally the United States has relied on for support in a series of security matters, including efforts to contain Russian aggression in Ukraine.

U.S. officials at the White House, the CIA, and the U.S. Embassy in Berlin all declined to comment on the expulsion or the recent German allegations of U.S. espionage.

The decision to ask the CIA station chief to leave came one day after German authorities carried out raids at an apartment and office in Berlin as part of a reported investigation of an individual with ties to the German military suspected of working for U.S. intelligence.

Last week, German police arrested a 31-year-old employee of the German foreign intelligence agency, or BND, accused of selling secrets to the CIA. Seibert said the decision to oust the CIA officer was made "against the backdrop of the ongoing investigations of the Federal Prosecutor General as well as the questions pending for months about the activities of the US intelligence services in Germany."

The latter was a reference to leaks last year by former U.S. intelligence contractor Snowden showing that the United States was intercepting communications of Germans and citizens of other European nations on a massive scale. Documents also showed that the National Security Agency had been monitoring Merkel's cellphone for years. The operation was halted, and the Obama administration was forced to apologize.

In Berlin on Thursday, Merkel described spying on allies as "a waste of energy."

Merkel has been criticized by some Germans for failing to respond more forcefully to the Snowden disclosures, which prompted Germany's parliament to launch an inquiry into the National Security Agency's surveillance programs on German soil.

Greg Miller and Stephanie Kirchner Washington Post
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