Germany Asks Top CIA Spy In Country To Leave

The move comes after German investigators discovered a second citizen suspected of spying for the U.S. Renee Montagne talks to James Bamford, who writes about U.N. intelligence agencies and the NSA.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Germany is kicking out of the country the CIA station chief in Berlin. That moves comes after German investigators identified a second citizen suspected of working for U.S. intelligence. Just last week, Germany arrested one of their own spies for selling intelligence to the U.S. Germans have been outraged by the latest spying cases and revelations by Edward Snowden of widespread U.S. electronic surveillance in Germany. Joining us is author James Bamford who has written extensively about U.S. intelligence agencies and the NSA. Good morning.

JAMES BAMFORD: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Ordering the station chief to leave a country - that sounds pretty dramatic.

BAMFORD: Well, it is very dramatic, and it almost never happens in a country that's a friend of the United States - a friendly ally. It's happened occasionally with countries we're not friendly with, but with an ally it's almost unprecedented.

MONTAGNE: OK so Germany, it's an important ally, and the station chief would be a key liaison in sharing intelligence with Germany. How does this effect cooperative efforts like combating terrorism?

BAMFORD: Well, I think it puts it in a deep freeze right now because the station chief leaving - they have to find another station chief. And the station chief basically runs U.S. intelligence for not just the CIA but for the NSA and all the other intelligence agencies in the country. And so if they're throwing out the top person in U.S. intelligence, it shakes up the entire intelligence system in terms of exchanging information between the two countries and so forth.

MONTAGNE: Now this would be as important for Germany, am I right, as it is for the U.S.? That is to say that these cooperative efforts - it needs our intelligence as much as the U.S. needs Germany's?

BAMFORD: Germany derives an enormous amount of benefit from sharing information with Washington. And it's a very mutually beneficial relationship, especially if you look back to 9/11 because the terrorists who were involved in 9/11, including Mohamed Atta and his associates, most of them were living in Germany at the time just before the attack. They came from Germany. So there's an enormous amount of cooperative effort between the two countries in terms of terrorism, largely based on the fact that this has been a place where terrorists lived for a while.

MONTAGNE: Germany, the government - surely it had some idea that there were operatives active in Germany even from a friendly country like the U.S. So how much of this is stage craft?

BAMFORD: I don't think there's a lot of stage craft here. I don't think the Germans expected that the U.S. would have a spy within their own intelligence organization. I think they - the Germans understand that the U.S. would probably try to recruit people in other intelligence organizations, other countries that the U.S. isn't that friendly with. But this is quite unprecedented because if you just look back to the days when the U.S. caught an Israeli spy in U.S. intelligence - that was Jonathan Pollard - that created an enormous scandal and enormous distrust by the United States of Israel because the U.S. was outraged that a friendly country would plant a spy within its own intelligence service. It's one thing to have electronic surveillance, in which case the Germans did some cooperation with the U.S. on that with the NSA. It's another thing to actually plant spies within the other intelligence service. And that's what happened here.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us.

BAMFORD: My pleasure, Renee

MONTAGNE: Journalist and author James Bamford is a longtime writer on the NSA and U.S. intelligence agencies. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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