Germany has asked the top American spy in the country to leave, in the wake of two cases of espionage allegedly involving the U.S. and amid the fallout from the surveillance of Germans by the National Security Agency.
“The representative of the U.S. intelligence services at the Embassy of the United States of America was asked to leave Germany,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said today in a statement.
The statement said that in the interests of security Germany sought close ties with its Western partners, especially the U.S., “But … mutual trust and openness are necessary.”
As we told you Wednesday, the German government is investigating a second spy case involving the U.S., just days after the arrest of a man who allegedly passed intelligence to the United States. The government has not officially said that the cases involved the U.S., but German news reports say the first arrest involved an official working for Germany foreign intelligence agency, BND, and the second case involved an official in the country’s Defense Ministry.
The White House on Thursday declined to comment directly on the German decision to expel the top spy at the embassy, but spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told The Associated Press the U.S. viewed the security and intelligence relationship with Germany as very important.
The expulsion and the suspected cases of espionage come at a delicate time for U.S-German relations. Ties between the allies have been strained since revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the agency spied on Germans, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.