Skip to main content

See also:

CIA spied on Germany due to Russian spies, other foreign agents

 Pedestrians pass the embassy of the United States of America on July 7, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
Pedestrians pass the embassy of the United States of America on July 7, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images

During the Cold War that lasted from 1945 to 1991, intelligence and counter-intelligence activities was prominent in many nations against the former Soviet Union (USSR) but on Saturday, an anonymous senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast the CIA did spy on Germany but focused on Russian intelligence activities, foreign terrorist groups, and Iran’s technology purchasing.

The latest revelation comes after the fallout in relations between Germany and the Obama Administration spying on Germany and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel cell phone calls prompted the White House to review N.S.A.’s surveillance programs to determine whether the intelligence gathered is worth the damage.

However, and outside of NSA’s spying scandals, the senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast concerning CIA activities, “We have had very serious problems with their counter-intelligence over the years. In counter-terrorism and in other areas they sometimes have problems that are bigger than they acknowledge to themselves. Much of the CIA’s activities inside Germany were not directed at prying secrets from Berlin. They were focused on Russian intelligence activities."

Eli Lake of the Daily Beast said, "The CIA and their German counterparts have worked closely for years on countering terrorists and thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But despite the cooperation on these issues, the CIA has also long held the view that Germany’s intelligence and security services have been penetrated by foreign agents."

The allegations of CIA spies in Germany came about in 2012 when a low-level worker of the German intelligence agency, BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst), came forward and volunteered to spy for the United States, passed on nearly 200 to a CIA case officer in Austria, but made one crucial mistake.

The low-level worker, who has not been identified and was not recruited by the CIA, decided he wanted to become a triple-agent spy for the U.S., Russia, and Germany, but his activities came to an end when he notified the Russian intelligence service, the Russian FSB, by emailing a message, attaching three BND documents, to the Russian consulate in Munich and subsequently BND intercepted the email and his spying activities was revealed and he was arrested.

Lake said, “The forerunners to Russia’s modern spy services had plenty of experience operating on German soil. Vladimir Putin famously ran agents for the KGB from 1985 to 1990 out of Dresden, which was then in communist East Germany. His successors are still in the country, albeit on less friendly terms and that prompted a response from the U.S. intelligence official who told Lake, “There is a huge Russian presence in Germany.”

Another intelligence official told Lake that while Germany’s Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BFV), the equivalent to the U.S. FBI, was good at identifying and taking care of domestic threats inside Germany, they were never good at catching foreign intelligence moles. That official said, “I can tell you they never watched us very carefully at all. That is almost definitely going to change now.”

If the on-going intelligence scandals weren't enough, on July 10, 2014, the German government ordered the CIA’s top officer in Berlin to leave the country due to the escalating scandals between the U.S. and Germany over U.S. spying but the Russian counter-part was not asked to leave.

Due to that decision, John A. Rizzo, a 30-year veteran at the CIA and served as its acting general counsel said, “I can’t recall ever getting to the point where a friendly service actually ejected somebody. The Germans must feel compelled to do this for political reasons, because there are certainly ways to convey one’s displeasure without taking this kind of overt step.”

The recent event by the German government could make it harder to cooperate with American intelligence in dealing with future threats to both the U.S. and Germany and whether such tensions will continue is unknown at this time.