Germany to spy on US for first time since 1945 after ‘double agent’ scandal

'We must focus more strongly on our so-called allies,' says Merkel security spokesperson

Berlin

Chancellor 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 deeply soured relations between Berlin and Washington.

The unprecedented change to Berlin’s counter-espionage policy was announced by Ms Merkel’s Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière. He said that Berlin wanted “360‑degree surveillance” of all intelligence-gathering operations in Germany.

The intelligence services of the 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 equivalent of M15 – the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

But Mr de Maizière 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 Ms 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 (£7,940) per document.

Chancellor Merkel interrupted a current trade visit to China on Monday 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.

Angela Merkel met Premier Li Keqiang in China to promote economic ties Angela Merkel met Premier Li Keqiang in China to promote economic ties (AFP)

Several German MPs on Monday 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 secret location in Austria.

He was caught by German counter-espionage agents only after he was found offering similar BND documents to Berlin’s Russian embassy. The Germans had considered it “impossible” that one of their own intelligence men could be working as a “ double agent” for the Americans.

New German counter-espionage 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 respective Berlin embassies.

Their existence was revealed at the height of the first spying scandal to dent Berlin’s relations with Washington which erupted last year when evidence supplied by the US whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that NSA bugged Ms Merkel’s mobile phone.

The US bugging operation was conducted from a listening post on the roof of the American embassy in Berlin, which is located only metres from the government district. Britain’s GCHQ was operating an almost identical “listening post” from the top of the UK’s embassy on Berlin’s nearby Wilhelmstrasse.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own