Merkel rejects accusation of ‘deception’ over US no-spy deal

Chancellor Merkel rejects German media allegations that she lied about US no-spy agreement

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

In an interview with the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Chancellor Angela Merkel denied allegations that her government deceived the German public just before the 2013 elections by saying Germany convinced the US to signed a “no-spy agreement.”

Last week the newspaper, in collaboration with German TV stations NDR and WDR, obtained government documents which allegedly show Merkel and her staff misrepresented the truth to gain public support in favour of Merkel’s party before the elections in 2013.

In 2013, just before the German elections, a German delegation travelled to the US immediately after Edward Snowden revealed documents showing that the US intelligence agency NSA spied in Germany using German intelligence agency facilities.

Answering the allegations, Chancellor Merkel said that there were talks between the US and Fermany that made it "appear possible to agree such a deal."

Chancellor Merkel assured that the BND did not give any information to the NSA without her knowledge and permission.

Merkel also backed her former chief of staff  Ronald Pofalla, saying, "I am convinced that he acted according to the best of his knowledge and conscience."

According to the documents released by the Südddeutsche Zeitung, the former Chief of Staff Ronald Pofalla announced that the US had offered Germany a no-spy deal in 2013, although both Chancellor Merkel and vice-chancellor Guido Westerwelle knew that it was only a possibility.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen from Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) in an interview with German newspaper Bild in also said that cooperation between the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) and the US National Security Agency (NSA) is essential for the safety of German troops on duty abroad.

"The precise cooperation established with the Americans has already saved the lives of several soldiers," von der Leyen said.

"In all necessary discussions with the Americans, we will not forget that. The USA has always warned us ahead of attacks in Afghanistan and they continue to do so. Being able to trust each other is key and that cannot be lost in all the necessary debates. Both sides need to work every day toward mutual trust."

Another interview with deputy chairman Ralf Stegner of governing coalition partner Social Democrats (SDP) was published saying that Chancellor Merkel should “press the US president Barack Obama to release” the NSA monitoring list in the G-7 talks.

"I am deeply convinced that in the interest of the security of our citizens we need to cooperate with the United States as well as our European partners on intelligence," Stegner added.

Current BND president Gerhard Schindler previously described the NSA as a crucial partner in helping the BND prevent threats to national security, during the German Bundestag committee’s investigation.

Schindler stressed that if the German parliament blocks the BND cooperation with the NSA, the BND will not be able to protect Germany against national and international threats.

BND-NSA cooperation

The BND has been engrossed in a scandal with the NSA ever since US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed details of widespread spying by the organisation in 2013.

Despite a cooperation agreement between the two intelligence agencies, even Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone conversations were monitored by the NSA in joint operation with British spy service GCHQ.

A CIA official based at the US embassy in Berlin was later expelled after another leaked report surfaced last July stating that a number of German officials had spied on behalf of the NSA.

Spiegel Online also previously reported that the NSA had provided the BND with the mail addresses and mobile phone numbers of individuals they were collecting information on, after the interior ministry said it had “no knowledge of alleged economic espionage by the NSA or other US agencies in other countries,” in response to a question posed by the opposition party Die Linke.

The Spiegel report, however, led to the German Chancellery issuing a statement saying it is “now checking whether parliamentary answers in this case remain totally valid.”

Under fire, Interior Minister de Maiziere said he is willing to “face up” to his responsibilities and “contribute to explaining the case,” but that he is not able to speak publicly on the matter.

Up to 800,000 German citizens, including politicians, were among those on the list of names provided to the BND by the NSA, another report in Die Zeit stated.

Last year, it was also revealed by former US Air Force drone pilot Brandon Bryant that the US military had been using its Ramstein Air Base in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate as the headquarters of its controversial predator drone programme.

The US, however, denied its base in Germany was being used to carry out targeted killings in Africa, Yemen, and Pakistan.

TRTWorld and agencies