Two American officials have acknowledged that the Central Intelligence Agency played a part in the espionage operation involving a German man who was recently arrested for allegedly spying on behalf of the United States.
In a report published on Monday, two unidentified government officials told Reuters of the CIA’s involvement in the operation, which led to the recruitment of the 31-year-old suspected spy who’s now in the custody of German officials. The man was also an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND).
One of the officials also stated that CIA Director John Brennan is looking to brief Congressional members on the situation, which “threatens a new rupture between Washington and a close European ally.”
As RT noted previously, the suspected German “double agent” has reportedly admitted to relaying information connected to Germany’s investigation into the US National Security Agency’s eavesdropping activity – which included tapping the phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The man reportedly gave his American contact 218 secret documents over the course of two years. In return, he received more than $34,000. The man was arrested for allegedly contacting Russian intelligence in order to sell information to another source, but confessed to initially working with the US.
Early reports suggested the man was a low-level employee, but recent stories by the Die Welt newspaper claim he was a close contact of the head of the BND, Gerhard Schindler. While Germany has brought the issue up with the US, government officials have remained tight-lipped about the allegations.
“The relationship that the United States has with Germany is incredibly important. This is a very close partnership that we have on a range of security issues, including some intelligence issues,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told Reuters. “All of those things are high priorities not just to this administration, but to this country. So we’re going to work with the Germans to resolve this situation appropriately.”
Earlier on Monday, Merkel made her first comments on the situation – the most serious since evidence emerged of NSA surveillance of the European leader’s personal phone – while traveling in China.
"If the reports are correct it would be a serious case," she said. "If the allegations are true, it would be for me a clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners."
The chancellor’s remarks followed angry pronunciations by other German politicians, including SPD parliamentary leader and Merkel ally Thomas Opperman, who said, "If the suspicion of espionage is confirmed, that would be an outrageous attack on our parliamentary freedom.”
The latest allegations come as the US has declined to sign onto a “no-spy” pact with Germany, which was offered after it was revealed that the NSA was collecting information on Merkel’s communications.
Despite some of the harsh comments directed, though, early indications are that the situation will not negatively affect negotiations on a free trade deal between the European Union and the US.