U.S. And Germany Fail To Reach Agreement On Spying

Courtesy: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Courtesy: Doug Mills/The New York Times

The United States and Germany have failed to reach an agreement on information sharing and spying, according to sources close to the issue.  The National Security Agency’s spying on Germany led to some disagreement between President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as they met Friday.  Obama said that the U.S. does not make any non-spying agreements with any country, including its closest allies.  Merkel said that she wanted to reach agreement on the subject but that Germans are very leery of spy programs.  Obama noted his disappointment in the effect Edward Snowden’s release of information has had on diplomatic relations with ally nations such as Germany.


The effort to remake the intelligence relationship between the United States and Germany after it was disclosed last year that the National Security Agency was tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone has collapsed, according to German officials, who say there will be no broad intelligence sharing or “no-spy” agreement between the two countries when Ms. Merkel visits the White House on Friday.

The failure to reach a broader accord has led to some bitter recriminations on both sides, with sharply diverging accounts from officials in Berlin and Washington about who was responsible for what was supposed to be a political solution to an embarrassing disclosure. But it also raises broader questions at a moment that President Obama and Ms. Merkel will attempt to show that they are in general accord on a strategy for both punishing Russia for its actions in Ukraine and containing President Vladimir V. Putin in the years ahead.

The effort to remain in step, at a time of significant disagreements within the European alliance about how to respond to Russia, is “going to put our intelligence relationships to the kind of test we haven’t seen since the end of the Cold War,” a senior administration official said this week.

Just before she left Berlin for Washington on Thursday, Ms. Merkel talked by phone with Mr. Putin, urging the release of a German-led team of military observers — four Germans, a Pole, a Czech and a Dane — who have been held almost a week in the Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, one of a dozen or so east Ukrainian cities where pro-Russian militants have assumed control.

The fact that the observers are still being held — to growing consternation in Berlin — has suggested to some in the West and in Ukraine that Mr. Putin, who in general values relations with Germany, is either unable or unwilling to intervene.

While the disclosure that the N.S.A. had listened to Ms. Merkel’s conversations for more than a decade was a passing story in the United States — one of many from the files that Edward J. Snowden took with him when he left Hawaii with the agency’s crown jewels — it has remained an issue in Germany. After the disclosure, Mr. Obama said the United States would not monitor Ms. Merkel’s communications, but he made no such commitment for any other German officials. And he said nothing about the future of the N.S.A.’s operations in Germany, including whether a listening station based in the American Embassy in Berlin, would stay intact.

For a number of months, German officials said the chancellor could not visit Washington until there was a resolution, including what they called a “restoration of trust” between the allies.

But the talks hit the rocks as soon as they began. Germany demanded a no-spy agreement that would ban the United States from conducting espionage activities on its soil. That led to a series of tough exchanges between the president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, and her German counterpart, Christoph Heusgen.

Ms. Rice, according to American officials, said that the United States did not have no-spy agreements with any of its close allies, even with the other members of the so-called Five Eyes — the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — which share virtually all of their intelligence. She said any such agreement with Germany would set a precedent that every other major European ally, along with the Japanese, the South Koreans and others, would soon demand to replicate.

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