About a year after it was first revealed that the US had spied not only on Angela Merkel but on virtually every German citizen, in a remarkable NSA-CIA tag-team joint venture, many were wondering why Germany is taking things so calmly (aside, of course, for the whole "Fed may need to bail out Deutsche Bank at any moment" bit). Turns out the answer is that Germany was doing the same all along and as the German press reveals today, the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has tapped at least one phone call of then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
According to "Süddeutsche Zeitung", NDR and WDR, Clinton's phone call was intercepted while she was on a US government plane.
The good news for the US - which until this point has been embarrassed by one after another Snowden-facilitated revelation of its worldwide spying escapade which has led to a complete collapse in Chinese sales for tech and telecom companies - is that is finally has a reason to "ask questions" and as NDR reports, John Kerry is said to have confronted the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier with this matter. Denis McDonough, US President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff is alleged to have addressed the wiretapping when visiting the German Chancellery Minister Peter Altmaier.
But German government sources deny systematic spying on the USA by the BND. Instead, Germany is using the tried excuse that the phone call made by Clinton "was intercepted unintentionally." The fact that the recording wasn't deleted immediately was called "idiocy" by a member of the government in Berlin. However, Clinton is supposedly not the only one: apparently, phone calls by US politicians and from other friendly nations have been repeatedly recorded and submitted to the respective BND President as instructed.
The excuses get better: according to government sources, it has never been intentional eavesdropping. So... accidental tapping of phones?
As Reuters adds, the spy dispute was revived in July when Germany's Federal Prosecutor arrested Markus R., a 31-year old employee of Germany's foreign intelligence agency (BND), on suspicion of spying for the Americans.
Details of the German recording of Clinton's conversation were included in documents that Markus R. had passed on to Washington, said the German media reports, without citing a source for that information.
The newspaper and the radio stations said a joint investigation had discovered the documents also showed Germany's government had ordered the BND to spy on a NATO partner state, without naming the country.
The irony here is that if Germany had been spying on the US, then the NSA - which has a vastly superior spying infrastructure - was well aware of it. But what is even worse is the subtext of what Merkel said in an interview last month, when she said that the United States and Germany had fundamentally different conceptions of the role of the intelligence service, and she stressed the Cold War was over.
Apparently, it isn't. In fact, what these ongoing revelations show is that in the "developed world" block, distrust and espionage is as bad as it was during the height of the cold war. Which then begs the question: why? After all, if the two nations' interest were indeed as closely aligned as the media would like Joe Sixpack to believe, none of this would be necessary. Just who is nervous of what in this closest of relationships between the US and its "biggest European ally?" And will Putin be, again, the winner in this escalating spat at the heart of the Western alliance.