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article imageU.S. German no-spy agreement appears doomed

By Ken Hanly     Jan 18, 2014 in Politics
Berlin - The U.S. has a "Special Collection Service" (SCS) that is operational in Berlin as well as other locations. The SCS is an elite group run by U.S. intelligence agencies NSA and the CIA.
As the German newspaper Der Spiegel reports: "The U.S. diplomatic mission in the German capital has not merely been promoting German-American friendship. On the contrary, it is a nest of espionage. From the roof of the embassy, a special unit of the CIA and NSA can apparently monitor a large part of cellphone communication in the government quarter. And there is evidence that agents based at Pariser Platz recently targeted the cellphone that Merkel uses the most. " The disclosure of the operations has caused considerable tension between the U.S. and Germany. Merkel made an angry phone call to Obama about the issue and even summoned the U.S. ambassador John Emerson to a meeting with the Foreign Ministry.
The Special Collection Service hides their spying apparatus, especially the large antennas on the roofs of embassies and consulates. "Top secret" classified internal guidelines point out "it would cause serious harm to relations between the United States and a foreign government" if the equipment were discovered.
The Guardian notes that several German media reports have claimed that the U.S. is refusing to negotiate a bilateral no-spy agreement and has not ruled out bugging calls of German leaders in the future. The refusal went even further: As well as refusing to inform German authorities of when the NSA had been bugging the chancellor's mobile phone, the U.S. is not commenting on plans for current or future surveillance activities in relation to German political leaders.
A request for access to what is assumed to be a surveillance centre in the top floor of the U.S. embassy next to Berlin's Brandenburg Gate has also been rejected.
Philipp Missfelder, coordinator for transatlantic relations in Germany's foreign office, said that relations between the U.S. and Germany were at a low point. He said:
"We still have hope that a no-spy agreement with the U.S. is possible, But given the high level of lost trust and the weak signals from the U.S., it will be very difficult to accomplish."
Among the reforms of the NSA surveillance program Obama espouses is narrower authorizations for spying on friendly foreign leaders but as Glenn Greenwald wrote about Obama's speech it was very much bereft of specifics and the reforms were more like slogans than specific policy proposals. In the case of spying on friends the reforms would not seem to include negotiating no-spy agreements with friendly allies.
More about US Germany relations, NSA spying, Angela merkel
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