Germany is investigating a suspected US spy in its military days after the arrest of a member of its foreign intelligence agency as a double agent tested US relations already strained by espionage.
The federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement that authorities had begun conducting searches in Berlin yesterday in connection with a suspected spy, who had not been arrested. It gave no further details.
“The suspect is from the military,” a security source told Reuters.
The investigation comes just days after Germany arrested a 31-year-old employee of the BND foreign intelligence service who admits passing documents to a US contact.
The foreign ministry has called in the US ambassador for an explanation.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that if it proved to be true that the BND officer was spying for Nato ally the US, it would be a “serious case”.
The documents include details of a parliamentary committee’s investigation of former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s allegations that Washington carried out surveillance in Germany, including of Merkel’s phone.
The new case is believed to be more serious than last week’s, Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said.
The defence ministry confirmed an investigation was going ahead but declined to give any further details. The US embassy in Berlin did not comment.
The latest allegations risk further straining ties with Washington, which have been sorely tested by reports last year of large-scale snooping by the US National Security Agency.
Merkel said there were talks with the US, but she could not comment on their content.
Two US officials familiar with the case of the arrested BND official matter told Reuters on Monday the Central Intelligence Agency was involved in a spying operation against Germany that led to the alleged recruitment of a German intelligence official.
Surveillance is a sensitive issue in a country where the memory of the Nazi’s Gestapo secret police and communist East Germany’s Stasi means the right to privacy is treasured.
After the Snowden revelations, Berlin demanded Washington agree to a “no-spy agreement” but the US has been unwilling to make such a commitment. German officials also emphasise that they rely on intelligence from US agencies.
Meanwhile, Snowden has applied to extend his stay in Russia, his lawyer said.
Anatoly Kucherena said Snowden applied to Russia’s migration authorities “a long time ago” since his one-year permit is expiring at the end of July.
Kucherena refused to say what kind of migration status his client is seeking, saying that it is up to the Federal Migration Service to make the decision.
Snowden was stranded in a Moscow airport last year on his way from Hong Kong to Cuba, shortly after he revealed the NSA’s sprawling programme of tapping phones. He received asylum in Russia, attracting the ire of the US.
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