“The Americans Lied to Us”
The German government and its intelligence services no longer believe the United States will stop spying on German citizens. Resentment is running deep.
By Hans Leyendecker and Georg Mascolo | Süddeutsche Zeitung | January 13, 2014
The planned “no spy” agreement with Germany seems doomed. While negotiations are still officially underway, Germany has little hope that a bilateral agreement acceptable to the United States is likely. The Americans will not even make a commitment to refrain from snooping on German government and political officials in the future.
There is a great deal of disappointment in German intelligence circles where the Bundesnachrichtendienst [the German intelligence agency] is charged with carrying on the negotiations. One BND expert told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “We’re not getting anything in return.”
BND President Gerhard Schindler is said to have told his staff that he would prefer to do without a no-spy agreement under such circumstances. Resentment among German negotiators is considerable. One high-level negotiator feels the Americans lied to them.
The U.S., for example, refuses to tell Germany the time frame in which Angela Merkel’s telephone was being monitored and whether America eavesdropped on other high-level German government officials’ telephone conversations as well.
Prior to eavesdropping on the German chancellor, the U.S. had guaranteed in writing that American intelligence would avoid doing anything counter to German interests. Requests by German constitutional lawyers for access to a suspected U.S. listening station on the top floor of their embassy on Berlin’s Pariser Platz were rejected by U.S. officials.
The German government had previously informed the U.S. government it would consider such a listening station to be a breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The German attorney general’s office will determine whether a formal investigation should be conducted.
The U.S. refusal to sign an enforceable agreement came as a surprise to Berlin. As late as this summer, National Security Agency Chief General Keith Alexander told his German counterparts, among them BND President Schindler, that the U.S. was preparing a far-reaching no-spy agreement. But he always provided the caveat that such an agreement would have to be approved by the White House, saying his office had no authority to do so independently.
The Americans’ apparent engagement led the German government to expect a quick and positive conclusion. The word in August was that oral agreements with the Americans were already in place stipulating “no mutual espionage, no industrial spying and no infringements of national laws.” These supposed agreements have now vanished into thin air.
A spokesperson for the German government refused to comment on the Süddeutsche Zeitung report because negotiations were still underway. The chancellor’s office stated it had hopes of a conclusion sometime within the next three months.