BERLIN — American ally and NATO member Germany on Thursday demanded that the top U.S. intelligence official stationed here leave the country amid new accusations of U.S. spying.
“The representative of the U.S. intelligence services at the United States Embassy has been asked to leave Germany,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert.
The German government did not name the American. But the description of the top American intelligence official could apply only to the CIA’s chief of station, who generally operates under diplomatic cover from an embassy.
German officials have been frustrated in their efforts to receive clarification from the U.S. since last summer, when it was reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been monitoring the digital communications of millions of Germans.
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The government tamped down that uproar, but fury flared anew when it was revealed last fall that the NSA had been monitoring Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
Although President Obama has offered assurances that the United States will no longer spy on leaders like Merkel, two cases of suspected U.S. espionage that have come to light in the past eight days have sparked a fresh round of outrage.
U.S. officials offered only limited comment. White House press secretary Josh Earnest, in Texas with President Obama, said Obama and Merkel had not spoken since July 3, before news broke that German authorities were investigating two new cases of U.S. spying.
Earnest said Germany and the United States continue to cooperate “at a variety of levels.”
In a statement late Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin said officials were aware of the German request that the intelligence official leave Germany. But it said there would be no comment on intelligence matters.
In Washington, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said Secretary of State John Kerry would be talking soon with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “Our relationship with Germany is extremely important,” she said. “We’ll continue our dialogue through senior officials in the days and weeks ahead.”
As Merkel put it Thursday, the two countries have better things to do than “waste energy spying” on each other.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a close Merkel ally, said the latest espionage cases did not reflect well on the Americans.
“With so much stupidity, you can only weep,” he said. “And that is why the chancellor is ‘not amused.’ ”
Clemens Binninger, a member of Merkel’s center-right party, said the expulsion request was “a political reaction of the government to the lack of willingness of U.S. authorities to help clear up any questions” arising over the past year in connection with U.S. surveillance of Germany and its leaders.
Binninger spoke after a session of the parliamentary control commission that oversees German intelligence activities, which he heads. The commission, whose proceedings are secret, was briefed Thursday by Gerhard Schindler, head of the Federal Intelligence Service, on the two suspected cases of espionage.
The first case, concerning a midlevel employee of Schindler’s agency who was arrested last week, is far more serious than the second, in which “very many questions” linger, Binninger said. No arrest has been made in the second case.
On Wednesday, police searched the Berlin office and apartment of the man in the second case, who is suspected of being a spy, federal prosecutors said. They declined to give further information, but the German media reported the suspect worked for the Defense Ministry. A ministry spokesman confirmed it was involved in an investigation.
The arrested intelligence employee, who has been described by where he works and by his age, 31, apparently fed U.S. agents 218 documents, some consisting of many pages, from five large files to which he had access, Binninger said. In the past two years, he copied the papers, took them home and then scanned them and put the files on a USB stick, Binninger added
The parliamentary commission said it had asked to see all the documents given to the Americans, but Binninger said initial accounts indicated that they were relatively harmless, depicting day-to-day business rather than deep secrets.
Material from McClatchy foreign staff is included in this report.