Germany to scrap no spy agreement

By Tony Paterson

Unprecedented change in response to arrest of $15k-a-document 'double agent'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo / AP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo / AP

Angela MerkelChancellor Angela Merkel's Government is planning to scrap a no-spy agreement Germany has held with Britain and the United States since 1945 in response to an embarrassing US-German intelligence service scandal which has soured relations between Berlin and Washington.

The unprecedented change to Berlin's counter-espionage policy was announced by Merkel's Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere. He said that Berlin wanted "360-degree surveillance" of all intelligence-gathering operations in Germany.

The intelligence services of the former Allied victors, the United States, Britain and France, have hitherto been regarded as "friendly" to Germany. Their diplomatic and information-gathering activities were exempted from surveillance by Berlin's Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

But de Maiziere told Bild that he was now not ruling out permanent German counter-espionage surveillance of US, British and French intelligence operations. His remarks were echoed by Stephan Mayer, a domestic security spokesman for Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats.

"We must focus more strongly on our so-called allies," he said.

The plan is in response to the scandal resulting from last week's arrest of a 31-year-old BND "double agent" who spent at least two years selling top-secret German intelligence documents to his US spymasters in return for cash payments of €10,000 ($15,500) per document. Merkel interrupted a trade visit to China to describe the scandal as a "very serious development". She added: "It is a clear contradiction of the notion of trustworthy co-operation." German politicians have been shocked that the Americans not only failed to report the "double agent" but recruited him.

Several German MPs yesterday demanded the expulsion of the American agents in Germany who recruited the "double agent". Hans-Peter Uhl, a leading conservative, told Der Spiegel: "It goes without saying that the [US] intelligence official responsible should leave Germany."

The double agent is reported to have simply emailed Berlin's American embassy and asked whether officials were interested in "co-operation". He subsequently downloaded at least 300 secret documents on to USB sticks that he handed to his American spymasters at a secret location in Austria.

New German measures would almost certainly result in the monitoring of "listening posts", which both the American National Security Agency (NSA) and its British equivalent, GCHQ, run from the roofs of their Berlin embassies.

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