The arrest of at least one American agent infiltrated the secret services in Germany, one of the closest allies of the United States, hinders the relationship between the two countries and reveals ignorance, by President Barack Obama, the actions of their own spies.
When Obama spoke by telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday on Ukraine and other bilateral issues, neither mentioned the other double agent ‘s arrest, which occurred a day earlier. The president had not gotten the news, according to The New York Times. It is unclear whether the news reached John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
But the CIA knew from earlier days, perhaps weeks, the man in the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) was in a difficult situation, the newspaper said.
As in autumn 2013 with the revelations about spying on the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel bythe National Security Agency (NSA), the new case is a setback for President at a time when US needs Germany on issues ranging from the conflict with Russia in Ukraine until the negotiation of a trade agreement with the European Union.
Obama has said repeatedly that agents should not spy on someone just because they have the capabilities to do so. Spies must take into account other variables – diplomatic costs of their actions, for example, when deciding to monitor a target.
But in the case of the NSA and the infiltration of the BND, diplomacy and espionage are on different paths: their interests do not always coincide and sometimes contradictory. And the president, who apparently also knew that the NSA poked Merkel phone gives the image of being overwhelmed by some intelligence services that are not always controlled.
“The question of the day is: who’s in charge? White House knows what the intelligence community? ” says historian Matthew Aid, author of books on the NSA and the intelligence services of the United States.
The NSA documents, leaked to the press by the former agent Edward Snowden, uncovered a vast electronic spying network. And they opened the debate on the influence of a complex Industrial espionage – like the military -industrial complex whose influence denounced President Dwight Eisenhower denounced in 1961 – in part escapes the political tutelage.
Anonymous sources in the White House expressed to The New York Times bewilderment at not having received the information about the arrest of double agent, or the fact that took weeks under German supervision. The case would not be so uncomfortable if not complicate Obama’s relationship with Merkel, its privileged partner in Europe.
But the gestures that the U.S. president is willing to do to appease the anger of the Chancellor are limited. U.S. refuses to sign an agreement with Germany non-aggression on espionage, similar to that maintained by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
It is unusual for U.S. presidents, each morning receiving an intelligence report, are interested in the details of the operations. They want to know the results, not the methods. And espionage between allies are surprised, because it is not new.
In 1995, France expelled five CIA officers, including Dick Holm, the head of the delegation of the agency in Paris, for espionage in the context of trade negotiations. Jonathan Pollard, an American who in the eighties passed classified documents to Israel, one of Washington ‘s closest allies, has spent nearly 29 years in prison in the USA.