World

'Double Agent' Arrest Could Strain U.S.-Germany Relations

A German intelligence employee was arrested for allegedly selling government secrets to the U.S., which could further damage U.S.-Germany relations.

'Double Agent' Arrest Could Strain U.S.-Germany Relations
Getty Images

German officials arrested a man this week who is accused of passing sensitive information to another foreign power — and reports say the U.S. could've been involved. 

Federal prosecutors in Germany have offered little information about the man but say he is a 31-year-old citizen who works for BND, Germany's foreign intelligence agency. The man's name hasn't been given but most news outlets have settled on either "spy" or "double agent," considering the allegations levied against him. (Via Getty Images, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, RT)

Quoting government officials, two German-language papers say the man is suspected of passing along information about Germany's recently-opened inquiry into the U.S. National Security Agency's surveillance programs. The papers reported the man met with U.S. agents between 2012 and 2014. He reportedly offered up 200-300 stolen documents on a USB stick for an estimated €25,000. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, people familiar with the case said, "The evidence pointing to U.S. involvement was significant but not conclusive, and other intelligence agencies, particularly Russia's, could also be involved."

A German spokesperson commented on the arrest, saying: "This is a very serious incident. That is why the Federal State Prosecutor has become active. Espionage activity for foreign intelligence services is not something that we're treating lightly." (Via Daily Mail)

The allegations against the German man could be new salt in old wounds. U.S.-Germany relations have been strained ever since leaked documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged the U.S. government agency tapped the phones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German lawmakers. 

That information prompted the current inquiry into NSA practices by German lawmakers — the same inquiry, interestingly enough, that's at the center of this latest scandal. (Via Getty Images)

Chancellor Merkel and President Obama spoke over the phone Thursday, although it's uncertain if this most recent arrest was discussed. The New York Times reports Germany's Foreign Ministry has called on U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson to "help in the swift clarification" of this spying case.