Following up on yesterday’s post about the corrosive impact of an out-of-control National Intelligence State, you may have missed that on July 7th, Bloomberg reported that Germany asked our CIA Head of Station to leave the country. From Bloomberg:
The expulsion, described as “an extraordinary event” by a German Foreign Ministry spokesman, reflects Chancellor Angela Merkel’s frustration about US spying on one of its most important allies and the political risk of growing mistrust of American intentions among the German public.
Bloomberg called Germany’s action the lowest point in relations with the US since Edward Snowden revealed extensive surveillance activities by the US, including the alleged hacking of Merkel’s mobile phone. Lawmakers and officials in Merkel’s governing coalition urged the Obama Administration to come clean on German surveillance and make a no-spying pledge. The US has made it clear that isn’t on the table.
Pressure on Merkel grew after an alleged American double agent was found in Germany’s foreign-intelligence service, known as BND. According to Spiegel Online: (brackets by the Wrongologist)
[The spy] had already been working for an American intelligence agency for two years. That relationship had…begun with an email, which he had sent to the US Embassy in Berlin, he explained. [He] talked about clandestine meetings in Austria, at which he had allegedly been paid a total of €25,000 ($34,000).
Bloomberg quoted Wolfgang Bosbach, a lawmaker in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party:
The US still hasn’t grasped what a burden this case is for the German-American relationship…Germany cannot tolerate espionage activity on its soil.
America came to this realization too late. Bloomberg reported that on July 9th, US Ambassador to Germany, John Emerson, went to the German Foreign Ministry with a Washington-authorized offer to provide Germany a US intelligence-sharing agreement resembling the “5 Eyes” relationship available only to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The goal was to assuage Merkel and prevent the expulsion of the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in Berlin.
But, that same morning, Merkel convened her top ministers and decided to ask the US intelligence chief to leave Germany. Merkel said:
We don’t live in the Cold War anymore, where everybody probably mistrusted everybody else… The notion that you always have to ask yourself…whether the one sitting across from you could be working for the others, that’s not a basis for trust…So we obviously have different perceptions and we have to discuss that intensively.
In addition to Ambassador Emerson’s efforts, Bloomberg reported that CIA Director John Brennan contacted Germany’s intelligence chief prior to the CIA official being asked to leave. He offered to visit Berlin to help resolve the dispute. But, Brennan’s offer was perceived in Berlin as too little, too late. The Germans had moved beyond a symbolic visit.
It wasn’t always this way. Before the current tensions, the US and Germany had a history of extensive intelligence cooperation. For many years, much of US electronic spying on Iran was conducted out of a CIA station in Frankfurt known as Tefran.
Now we have a big repair job on our hands, precisely when we need the German government to work closely with us on Ukraine and the Middle East.
Nicely played, US Security State! This conflict with Germany underscores the opinion that US intelligence agencies lack a good risk-assessment model, one that judges the benefits of operations directed at friendly powers against the potential risks that can come from those operations.
In the LA Times, Jacob Heilbrun said:
If Obama is unable to rein in spying of Germany, he may discover that he is helping to convert it from an ally into an adversary. For Obama to say Auf Wiedersehen to a longtime ally would deliver a blow to American national security that no amount of secret information could possibly justify.
And on the same date, Spiegel Online’s lead article was: “Germany’s Choice: Will It Be America or Russia?” Europeans in general, and Chancellor Merkel specifically, are examining how (or if) they can survive geopolitically without the US. And for Germany, and possibly others in Europe, this could push them into the logical alternative, a European tent that includes Russia.
Mr. Putin’s grand plan has been to separate Germany from the US. Yet, even in light of knowing Putin’s strategy, we still alienate Germany. This makes one ask: Who is in charge of our geopolitical strategy? Brennan, or Obama? Can anybody in DC play this game? Is it wrong to ask: How about firing Brennan over screwing up our relationship with Germany?
Mr. Brennan may be thinking of this exchange between Lady Clementine Churchill and French General Charles De Gaulle on December 9, 1967:
General, you must not hate your friends more than you hate your enemies
De Gaulle (in English):
France has no friends, only interests
Sadly, both De Gaulle and Brennan have been proven wrong. Germany will move us from the “friend” to the “interest” column.
Let’s hope we don’t need them to do something that only a friend would do.