FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Germany expels CIA station chief in spy scandal
Yesterday the German government announced that it was expelling the presumed US CIA station chief because of US espionage activities directed against the German government.
Germany has expelled the CIA’s station chief in Berlin in a dramatic rebuke to Washington after its security services uncovered two cases of alleged American spying in a week.
The American intelligence official was asked to leave the country in a public signal of Angela Merkel’s fury over US spying on Germany.
One would think, given the CIA’s utter abysmal record in doing anything more strenuous than undercutting Republican presidents that they would at least try to do something useful, like trying to warn that an Islamic terror group was about to carve a caliphate out of two Arab countries. But, no. One would be sadly mistaken. One would also think that given the neo-tsarist impulses of Russian President Vladimir Putin that the CIA might refrain from humiliating a vital ally, and one of the few reliable allies left to us since the #WarOnAlliances was declared by Obama in 2009.
This operation is just one of the highly visible blown operations directed against Germany by a US intelligence agency. When Edward Snowden made public the cache of documents he’d purloined from the National Security Agency one of the revelations was that Barack Obama had approved of the surveillance of German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s phone.
President Barack Obama was dragged into the trans-Atlantic spying row after it was claimed he personally authorised the monitoring of Angela Merkel’s phone three years ago.
The president allegedly allowed US intelligence to listen to calls from the German Chancellor’s mobile phone after he was briefed on the operation by Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), in 2010.
While that has all the makings of intelligence frat boys fighting for bragging rights rather than a serious intelligence effort it was still embarrassing to Merkel. What happened this time, at first blush, seems like a senseless and high risk effort that had no larger purpose than logging an agent recruitment and intelligence operation on someone’s performance appraisal.
On July 2, German counter-intelligence agents arrested a 31-year old employee of the administrative branch of the BND, German equivalent of the CIA, on suspicion of spying for the Russians. Yes, you read that right. The Russians.
The BND employee, who is said to have a physical disability and a speech impediment, received around 25,000 euros (£20,000) for 218 confidential documents, though sources within the intelligence service told German newspapers that the 31-year-old had been motivated less by financial interests than by a craving for recognition.
After the CIA had apparently lost interest in him, he had offered his services to the Russian general consulate in Munich, inadvertently catching the attention of the German counter-espionage agency.
Well played, CIA. Nothing says professionalism like recruiting a flake to spy on one of your allies.
But the CIA is nothing if not persistent. Via The Guardian: Second German government worker suspected of spying for US.
German authorities are investigating the second case of a government employee suspected of spying on confidential government affairs for US secret services within a week.
Public prosecutors confirmed that the home and office of a defence ministry employee in the greater Berlin area had been searched on Wednesday morning.
They told the Guardian that a search had been conducted “under suspicion of secret agent activity” and that evidence – including computers and several data storage devices – had been seized for analysis. The federal prosecutor’s office confirmed that no arrest had yet been made.
According to Die Welt newspaper, the staffer being investigated is a soldier who had caught the attention of the German military counter-intelligence service after establishing regular contact with people thought to be working for a US secret agency.
And we should not be surprised if more agents are exposed and more CIA (and probably DIA) employees are expelled. Merkel is rightfully angry and the German counterintelligence service is probably torqued over being publicly punked by the CIA.
The obvious question is why did Barack Obama allow the CIA to carry out such a high-risk-low-benefit operation at a time when German cooperation is critical on a wide variety of strategic issues. Take a guess:
When President Obama placed a call to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany last Thursday, he had a busy agenda: to consult with a close ally and to mobilize wavering Europeans to put more pressure on Russia to end its covert incursions in Ukraine.
What Mr. Obama did not know was that a day earlier, a young German intelligence operative had been arrested and had admitted that he had been passing secrets to the Central Intelligence Agency.
What is particularly baffling to these officials is that the C.I.A. did not inform the White House that its agent — a 31-year-old employee of Germany’s federal intelligence service, the BND — had been compromised, given his arrest the day before the two leaders spoke. According to German news media reports, the agency may have been aware three weeks before the arrest that the German authorities were monitoring the man.
A central question, one American official said, is how high the information about the agent went in the C.I.A.’s command — whether it was bottled up at the level of the station chief in Berlin or transmitted to senior officials, including the director, John O. Brennan, who is responsible for briefing the White House.
If true, and we really have no reason to believe that it is true given this administration’s sordid history of lying for no greater purpose than just keeping their hand in, this is disturbing. It indicates that the CIA is operating without any guidance or direction either from Langley or the White House. The idea that we knew we had an agent operating against an ally arrested and no one thought fit to tell anyone beggars the imagination. Given the bureaucratic nature of the CIA it is difficult to believe that Langley didn’t know and that at some point Obama was warned about another impending diplomatic #FAIL by the most competent administration in US history.
This represents just another example of the shabby way in which Obama treats American allies. They are ignored, humiliated, and abused. At the same time our enemies are flattered, praised, and rewarded. Strategic opportunities slip from our grasp because we are neither feared nor admired. Our intelligence agencies use illegal means to spy on spouses and lovers but can’t be bothered to determine what our enemies are up to or, apparently, tell the President when an operation goes awry. This is an administration that is in over its head, disinterested, and utterly adrift. We will be generations in our recovery… if ever.