UK & World News

  • 10 July 2014, 20:36

Germany Expels Top US Spy Amid Espionage Row

The German government has told the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country, in what is thought to be the first such action against a top US intelligence official since the Cold War.

The move comes amid reports of two cases of suspected American espionage in Germany over the past week and a longer dispute over alleged US National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Thursday: "The representative of the US intelligence services at the United States embassy has been asked to leave Germany.

"The request occurred against the backdrop of the ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors as well as the questions that were posed months ago about the activities of US intelligence agencies in Germany.

"The government takes the matter very seriously."

Clemens Binninger, head of a parliamentary oversight committee on intelligence, said the move was "a reaction to the long-lacking co-operation in efforts to get to the bottom of this affair".

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not directly comment about the expulsion on Thursday other than to say the US-German national security relationship was important.

Shortly before the expulsion was announced, Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that Germany and the US had different approaches to the role of intelligence agencies.

"I think that in these times, which can be very confusing, very much depends on trust between allies," she said.

Ties have been strained between the two allies since reports emerged last year that the NSA had eavesdropped on Ms Merkel's mobile phone.

But the rift widened further over the past week when two German officials fell under suspicion of spying for the US.

Last Friday, a 31-year-old intelligence agency employee was arrested for allegedly selling more than 200 documents to the CIA.

Then on Wednesday police searched the Berlin-area home and office of a German defence ministry official who local media report is suspected of also spying for the US. 

US Ambassador John Emerson has reportedly held a number of meetings with German officials in recent days to discuss the allegations.