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US-German Intelligence Rift Hits New High


By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security

Germany’s Parliament is getting ready to review the NSA with a Parliamentary inquiry. Both Britain and the U.S. are threatening to discontinue sharing intelligence with Germany as a result. This ‘threat’ has not been verified. However, with tensions as they are and a crisis meeting to discuss intelligence in Germany’s intelligence sharing, the threat may be genuine.

Is this an empty threat by the U.S. and Britain? At the heart is the disclosure of methods which neither the Americans nor the British will disclose. Nevertheless, the Germans are familiar with these methods already and so Washington and London do not want Berlin to speak of any sources and methods that should be remain secret. Obviously they do not desire to jeopardize the program so it would appear such threats could be genuine.Germany US Intelligence Britain

Britain is also threatened in releasing classified information about its intelligence operations which is the request of absurdity between friendly nations. As a consideration for Berlin, the Anglo-American intelligence alliance needs European solidarity at this time more than ever; not just with Russia or international terrorism but also an increasingly fractured world order. But Berlin needs the Anglo-American intelligence and security support even more. One BND source said they would be “blind” without them.

Germany’s politically reactive responses are interfering with foreign intelligence cooperation as a genuine threat to each state concerned. Germany has already, within the last year, rooted out several spies playing a role in massive foreign surveillance of their public citizenry. They extended a hand to Edward Snowden, who lost any credentials for being a whistle-blower when he sought asylum in Russia. They have since stalled on the seeking of Snowden’s testimony but their intelligence services had been instructed to formally ‘spy’ on U.S. and British intelligence activities on German soil. The CIA station chief in Berlin was asked to leave after a BND double agent was selling secrets to the U.S.

The political wrangling for domestic audiences endangers Europe’s biggest threats, which are hardly the British or the Americans. According to Bild newspaper, GCHQ has a joint arrangement with Germany to monitor the voluntary jihadists on holiday in Syria or transiting back and forth.

The process of repairing diplomatic and intelligence ties to the Snowden “public” revelations is a lesson for intelligence operators that goes beyond the simplistic definition of blowback and resembles a more gradual variant not only with the manner in which stolen U.S. intelligence data was released by Snowden but also with the slow political responses. It is possible that one hand does not know what the other was doing.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was apparently not informed of the tight Anglo-German intelligence alliance operation and then had to turn on her allies in order to maintain her Berlin power position. More importantly, she admitted to being a victim of cellphone invasion by the NSA, which made the matter personal. This was not the case in London because they are joined at the hip with Washington and also because the successful deflection of the issue to blame the Americans and now, their NSA equivalent, the GCHQ. Never at a fault or in question were the political leaders. Finally, in the U.S. the cascading recheck of NSA mass surveillance programs in Congress were also followed by a stubborn review process that simply check-marked privacy concerns, made several important compromises and then vanished from the stage.

Unfortunately for matters of security and intelligence, the German stage is still scrambled on defense mode but with the Russians breathing down their necks with military expansionism and jihadists in their midst, they too will likely seek security over domestic privacy concerns. It is expected they will be forced to drop the harshest castigations of the Anglo-American intelligence operations within Europe or seek the soft slap on the wrist and continue the partnership.