In a remarkable show of agitation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told the U.S. spy chief stationed in her country to go back home, according to multiple reports.
“The government has asked the representative of the U.S. intelligence agencies in Germany to leave the country as a reaction to the ongoing failure to help resolve the various allegations, starting with the NSA and up to the latest incidents,” a German lawmaker told reporters Thursday.
Merkel’s decision to ask the top U.S. intelligence official to leave is the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of spying scandals that have angered the powerful ally — and repeatedly left U.S. officials scrambling to do damage control.
Tensions boiled to the surface when leaks from Edward Snowden revealed that U.S. spies had tapped Merkel’s phone, but a cascade of recent controversies since then have brought the diplomatic mess to a new level.
Last week, Germany detected and arrested an accused spy believed to be under contract with the CIA and passing secrets to the U.S. When Merkel and President Obama spoke by phone to discuss placing further sanctions on Russia, Merkel didn’t bring up the compromised spy, which at the time Obama was reportedly unaware of.
But now there are new allegations from Berlin that the U.S. has recruited another spy. Taken as a stubborn refusal by the U.S. to change or even discuss its spying protocol, Germany is now taking a more forceful approach to limit U.S. intelligence operations.
“That is just so stupid, and so much stupidity just makes you want to cry,” said Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister and an ally to Merkel.
Germany’s outrage at the U.S. for its spying has even had an economic impact. Last month, Germany announced it would cancel a contract with Verizon because of concerns over data privacy sparked by the Snowden files. And U.S. tech firms have routinely warned the Obama administration that fears surrounding its sweeping domestic and international surveillance programs could lead to billions of dollars in lost revenue for their industry.
In her first public remarks since accusations of the second CIA spy surfaced on Wednesday, Merkel condemned America’s espionage on allies as a “waste of energy.”
When Merkel visited the White House in May — her first since the Snowden revelations came to light — she said she was confident President Obama would be candid about discussing spying practices. Obama said the two countries were “not perfectly aligned” on how they viewed government surveillance of allies, and added that he wanted to “make sure there are no misunderstandings” with Berlin.
But given Merkel’s recent actions, those “misunderstandings” may have translated into mistrust.