New spying row hurts US ties with Germany

Roettgen warns US intelligence activity can lead to a frozen conflict

WASHINGTON – Fresh spying accusations are undermining US efforts to mend fences with Germany, only two weeks after both allies launched a diplomatic initiative to overcome the NSA surveillance row.

On Wednesday, the White House stayed mum on the alleged espionage, as German lawmakers vented their anger during a visit to Washington and criticised perceived indifference on this issue in the United States. "We find that our interlocutors have very little awareness of the problem," said Norbert Roettgen, chairman of Germany's parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

After talks with members of Congress and national security officials, Roettgen told journalists that his delegation did not receive answers about the recent spying scandal, warning that the US intelligence activity in Germany could lead to a frozen conflict in the transatlantic relationship. Fellow lawmaker Niels Annen deplored that the new accusations undermined good intentions behind the so-called cyber dialogue, a diplomatic forum Germany and the US launched on June 27 to address their disagreements over intelligence gathering and data protection.

"We had the NSA surveillance programs, we had the tapping of Merkel's cell phone and now this spy story comes on top of it," Annen told AFP. German authorities on Wednesday confirmed the second possible spying case in less than a week after investigators questioned a man who, local media reported, is a German military employee accused of passing secrets to the United States.

The case follows Friday's news that a 31-year-old German BND intelligence service operative had been arrested two days earlier, suspected of having sold over 200 documents to the CIA. White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated that he was "not in a position to confirm or deny or even comment on reports related to reported intelligence activities."

But he told journalists that a couple of conversations between German and US diplomats as well as law enforcement and intelligence officials had taken place to try to appropriately resolve some of the circumstances.

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