A second possible spying case in less than a week emerged in Germany today, feeding into the growing frustration and fear among Germans that American espionage has no limits.
The cases come as Germany attempts to normalize relations with the US over earlier NSA spying allegations. The new revelations threaten to bring German opinion of the US to new lows, and derail the transatlantic agenda.
The German Federal Prosecutor’s office confirmed that it is investigating a second possible case, after German media reported that a German man may have been spying for the US in the military industry. The German defense ministry is involved in the inquiry and taking the case “very seriously,” ministry spokesman Uwe Roth told reporters.
Very little information is known about the man who is suspected of being a US spy. Police have searched his rooms and offices in Berlin. The New York Times cited Germany’s Die Welt newspaper, which said the suspect was a German soldier who has passed information to US military intelligence.
In the first case, which emerged last week and is also still under investigation, German media reported that a man working for Germany’s intelligence agency was arrested for handing documents to the CIA.
Asked about that case, specifically a Spiegel Online report that CIA Director John Brennan contacted the chancellery, Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “I can only say that talks are taking place, but I can’t say anything about the outcome."
The US ambassador to Germany, John Emerson, was called to the Foreign Ministry to clarify facts in the first probe, just hours before the annual July 4 celebrations at the embassy in Berlin. Mr. Emerson returned to the ministry again today.
The Monitor reported yesterday in a story about the first probe, there are many factors at stake in the bilateral relationship as anti-Americanism grows in Germany.
According to a survey carried out this month by German pollster Infratest Dimap, 70 percent of Germans characterize the US as power-hungry. Majorities also describe the country as arrogant and reckless. Only 27 percent say it can be trusted.
"I’m not sure the US has understood how disappointed its closest allies in Europe are,” says Josef Braml, a transatlantic expert at German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "This is not a self-confident superpower. This is a country that lives in agony.… For the German-American relationship, it’s difficult to look up to the US.”
This anger and disillusionment in Germany dates back to the unpopular US invasion of Iraq, the fallout from the global financial crisis, and disappointment in President Obama – not to mention the 25 years that have passed since the Berlin Wall fell. But the NSA scandal was the tipping point. Today, palpable German anger has an impact on the transatlantic agenda, says political analyst Ulrike Guerot, including a free trade deal called the TTIP and the crisis in Ukraine.
Although the German government backs the TTIP for economic considerations, the NSA scandal adds to the ambivalence that the German public already feels about it. An Infratest Dimap poll from June showed that 55 percent of Germans fear that the TTIP will be disadvantageous for their country.
“If you look at NSA, or TTIP, and Ukraine; what we believed the West to be is gone. It is basically an empty shell,” says Ms. Guerot.