The White House and the U.S. State Department have not released an immediate comment on the arrest of a 31-year-old employee of the German Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst - BND), who turned out to be a double agent and was suspected of spying for the United States. The reaction from senior management and leading politicians of Germany to the spy scandal was strange, to put it mildly.
Interestingly enough, the 31-year-old employee of Foreign Relations of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), whose name was not disclosed, was originally arrested for alleged spying for Russia. The BND employee was detected as he was trying to establish a contact with the Russian Embassy in Berlin.
When being interrogated, the agent admitted that he was only trying to establish contact with the Russians, but was cooperating with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
The agent said that he, on his own initiative, contacted the Americans, offering them secret data about the activities of the BND for a fee. Since 2012, he has collected about 218 documents. The agent was meeting an American officer on the territory of Austria.
This spy scandal is the largest one in the relations between the USA and Germany, after the revelations made by Edward Snowden. When it was revealed that the NSA was wiretapping the phones of top German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, German authorities appealed to the United States with an offer to enter into an agreement not to spy on each other, but Washington refused.
As soon as the news of the arrest of the BND agent became public, it was said that the American ambassador in Berlin was summoned to the Foreign Minister of Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised that cooperation between Berlin and Washington would be called into question, should the information about the double agent, who spied for the United States, be confirmed.
German President Joachim Gauck released harsh statements about the spy scandal. In an interview with ZDF (Second German TV Channel), he said: "We indeed had long and intense debate about what rights the NSA had in comparison with other countries and our citizens." If an employee of the BND spied on U.S. intelligence agencies, then, as Gauck put, "they were playing with friendship and close alliance" between Germany and the United States. "In this case, I would really say it's time to put an end to this," said the president.
According to the Sunday tabloid Bild am Sonntag, the German government was considering an opportunity to replace agents from Joint Intelligence Staff of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. Germany may replace its American ambassador too.
A politician from the CSU, chairman of the work group on domestic policy, Hans-Peter Uhl, said in an interview with Welt am Sonntag that the United States behave in Germany, "like a digital occupying power." It is time to "become more independent on the U.S. intelligence" and improve technical equipment of German security authorities.
Former President of the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany, Hans-Georg Wieck, noted in an interview with Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that the precedent affected the reliability of German special services. The Federal Intelligence Service is a tool of the government. "The German government is not a vassal of the United States or any other country. Therefore, this breach of trust is treason," said Wieck.
Bundestag deputy from the Green Party, Volker Beck, said in an online edition of Handelsblatt-Online: "It is the Federal Chancellery that carries responsibility for the actions of the Federal Intelligence Service. We expect that higher authorities will initiate, as necessary, ruthless and unconditional investigation into this precedent."
According to the German "Left Party" (Die Linke), all fingers point to the Office of the Chancellor and its chief, Peter Altmaier. One of the leaders of the "Linke," Bernd Riexinger, wrote on pages of Rheinische Post that "Germany's Federal Intelligence Service lost an Atlantic eye."
If counterintelligence had operated like that during the Cold War, the question of political responsibility for administrative errors would have been inevitably raised. Riexinger demanded the federal government must "show Americans the teeth."
The committee for the investigation of electronic surveillance of the NSA in Germany was established in March of last year. The committee includes representatives of ruling parties - Conservatives, Social Democrats, as well as the opposition. The latter believed that the committee was not interested in a thorough investigation of all circumstances of Americans' activities.
For example, the idea to question Edward Snowden as a witness on the territory of Germany, has never materialized. Contrary to the wishes of the opposition, the CDU and the SPD decided to interrogate him in Moscow. However, the former NSA officer refused from an informal meeting with the Commission of Inquiry of the German Bundestag in Moscow. As Snowden's lawyer in Berlin said, questioning "in the desired form" was only possible in Germany.
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